It’s been eight years since the release of Robert “Sonny” Wood’s first book The Eye of the Poet, yet the 72-year-old’s keen eye for transforming life stories into moving poetry still hasn’t lost focus.
Wood has endured enough life experiences to span two lifetimes. In addition to going to prison, he’s also battled drug and alcohol addiction. But at the peak of his tribulations, he vied for a change. “I really to make an extra effort to get my life on track and go in the direction,” Wood told the AFRO during a recent interview.
In an attempt to curb his desire for the streets, he honed his passion for writing poetry, which he says he garnered at a young age. Born in North Carolina, Wood became captivated when his mother would often recite a particular poem to him before bed. “I grew very attracted to that melodic sound,” Wood said. “I used to run to the bed at night and ask her to recite it. I guess that seed was planted from that time on.”
Wood moved to Baltimore when he was 13 and had his first child at 17. By this time, his fondness for poetry had been buried by life situations and the lyrics to his mother’s poem had begun to fade from his memory.
But in 1958, during a trip to the bohemian Mecca Greenwich Village, N.Y., his passion was rekindled after listening to a man’s poetry at a nightclub. “I concentrated on it and it all came back,” Wood said. “I was shocked that I could remember it after hearing it at such a young age.”
His experiences with love, hate, violence and life in the streets fueled his debut release in 2002. The book received critical praise from many prominent people in Baltimore and even included a synopsis by former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume.
Today, Wood serves as a writer, a foster grandparent for Baltimore’s Department of Juvenile Justice Detention Center and a photographer. He also developed a passion for acting along the way, first appearing in productions at the local theater company the Arena Players and later garnering a role in the HBO series “The Wire” in 2002.
Though it’s been nearly a decade since the Eye of the Poet’s release, Wood is still zealously at work developing his second book. He explained that finances have slowed its production, but he remains passionate about getting it released. “I have just about all of the material together,” Wood said. “But quite frankly, it’s the financial thing. But it’s difficult when you’re dealing with everyday situations and you still have to make that dollar to pay bills and take care of your family. But all-in-all, I’m truly committed to completing it.”