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J. Ivy is a Poet with a Mission to Heal with Words
“Now, more than ever, we gotta let our light shine,” J. Ivy told the audience.
Sunday, June 12, 2022


J. Ivy found his purpose years ago. Friday night he urged a packed theater at The Argyros to do the same.

“We all have a divine purpose,” he said. We all are a part of something so much bigger. Make sure you love yourself so you can extend that love.”

Ivy has had a love affair with the Sun Valley Wellness Festival since serving as keynote speaker in 2015. And those attending the kick-off event for the silver anniversary of what’s considered America’s longest running wellness festival reciprocated, hanging on every word and showering Ivy with praise afterwards.

It’s important that we live in gratitude,” J. Ivy told his audience.

“As a writer, I’m in awe of his writing with its twists and turns,” said Claudia Aulum, who helped Alan Pesky write his book “More to Life than More: A Memoir of Misunderstanding, Loss and Learning.”

James Ivy Richardson II Ivy grew up the son of a DJ whose booming voice on the radio he listened to every morning before school. But it wasn’t until his junior year in high school that he found his own voice. He had written what he called a “silly poem” titled “There Once was a Cloud,” after seizing on the clouds he saw outside his window for an English class assignment.

And he was blown away when his teacher took him aside after he recited it and told him “You have a very nice speaking voice.”

“When I grew up, I didn’t say I wanted to be a poet,” he recounted. “I knew I was good at writing notes to girls but hip-hop was my thing.”

J. Ivy met with fans during a reception following Friday’s keynote address.

Still, when Mrs. Argue asked him to take part in a talent show he resisted, even though he had learned it didn’t pay to argue with Mrs. Argue.

“I was shy, broken in some ways…trying to figure out who I was, scared to go through the motions.”

That said, he didn’t turn her down the next time she asked.

“Something about the challenge, the love of it…all made me want to do it. I got on the stage terrified,” he said, likening the terror to wanting to get off a roller coaster.

J. Ivy recounted how his cousin old him to close his eyes when he was suffering from depression. “Everything you need is right there,” the cousin added, pointing to his head. “It’s our job to move in this world and keep going.”

But, when he got a standing ovation, he was hooked.

“As a young kid, I felt invisible. But that night I realized I did have a voice. I had a purpose. After that, I was like, ‘When’s the next show?’ Every show in high school I was on it,” he said.

He segued into “I Need to Write,” his animated body driving home what he was saying.

“What about the stories that I need to tell? I need to write cause can’t nobody do it for me. Can’t nobody document my inspirations the way I can. Can’t nobody compliment my aspirations the way I can. Only I can, only I can, only I can So I need to write.”

Sharon Heitur shows off a J. Ivy T-shirt for sale at Festival headquarters at The Argyros.

In the 30 years since, J. Ivy has crafted words of poetry to help heal people with the power of his words. He worked with Kanye West and Jay-Z on the 2004 Grammy-winning album “The College Dropout.” He narrated Beyonce’s “Black is King” promo for the return of the NBA during the pandemic.

And this year he was nominated for a Grammy for his album “Catching Dreams: Live at Fort Knox Chicago,” taking his place alongside Barack Obama, Levar Burton, Dave Chappelle and Don Cheadle.

Ivy bared his soul Friday night as he performed his heartfelt poetry and song with the help of his wife Tarrey Torae and her powerful gospel-like renditions.

“Each poem becomes part of a mirror. You start to see who you are,” he told the audience.

One of pieces he’s created describes his pain at not seeing his father for 10 years after his father succumbed to drugs and alcohol and divorced his mother. Ivy went to Illinois State but dropped out because of depression. He describes how learning to forgive empowered him to carry on in the memoir “Dear Father: Turning my Pain into Power.”

“…My love was amputated, my life was complicated, my family became dysfunctional…dad.”

“…the little boy in me still wants his daddy badly I feel like a scared little boy afraid to become a man…

“I wonder if you know I know you’re proud ‘cause I’m going to be the best just like you want, watch watch and see and just in case you can’t I’m going to scream it so loud that I shake the clouds and move them out of the way…

“You are my sunshine that’s why I forgave you and my love for you is still the same and may have ….on my name I’m going to stop this rain, conquer this pain, make sure that you did not die in vain and when I get to heaven…when I get to heaven, I’m going to jump in your arms…”

J. Ivy likens the process of writing poetry to meditation.

“I feel I have super power to listen when I sit down to write. I’m listening, to God…everyone,” he said. “My responsibility as a poet is to catch as much as I can.”

He again exhorted the audience:

“Life is a marathon. It gets exhausting but there’s always an opportunity, experiences like the  Sun Valley Wellness Festival, that inspire you to keep going.”


About Face proprietor Geneal Thompson, who heads up the board of the Sun Valley Wellness Festival,  opened up the festival with a tribute to Cheryl Welch and Carol Waller, the bookstore owner and  former Chamber director who helped start the festival 25 years ago.

“They sent out a survey to find out what this quiet little valley wanted through slack and the people wanted wellness. Look what it’s become today,” she said.

The Sun Valley Wellness Festival continues today with a keynote speech at 6:30 p.m. at The Argyros by Rick Doblin on the future of psychedelic therapy. There also will be presentations by Claudia Aulum and Alan Pesky on “Misunderstanding, Loss and Learning,” by Nora McInerny on “When Positivity Becomes Toxic” and more.

The free Experience Park continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today—Sunday, June 12—at Festival Meadows on Sun Valley Road.  The Experience Park showcases wellness products, yoga sessions, vegan and gluten-free foods, energy herbs, energy healing sessions, jewelry, music and more.

Learn more at


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