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Poet Rhymes Her Way Back Home

Keren Dongo's visit to Stamford's South End Branch Library to promote her first volume of poetry was more than a book signing. It was a homecoming.

"We grew up together. I'm proud of her," said Stephanie Dorissaint, one of about 50 people who crowded into the small library Saturday to welcome Dongo back to her hometown and hear her read from the new book. Titled "Sung Sister," the work contains poems that Dongo says are ways of responding to life events.

"They're just about life and things that go on in life," Dongo said. "Poetry is my way of expressing myself, my emotions, my feelings, a way to make sense of it."

Dongo read several selections that illustrated the book's span. "My Happy" is about the joy of discovering one's own gifts and strengths. "I Hear You" offers a sympathetic ear to the black prison population. "It was Personal" is about a dysfunctional relationship. "Café Latte with God" extols the virtues of taking a spiritual breather every now and then.

A Stamford native of Haitian-American descent, the 31-year-old Dongo now lives in Alexandria, Va., with her husband. She works in Washington, D.C. as senior manager of community engagement for ONE, an organization that advocates for the eradication of poverty.

Haiti is a focus of the organization, which has lobbied for debt forgiveness for the nation. Dongo, whose mother lost a great-aunt to the recent earthquake, diligently follows Haitian developments. Recently entertainer Wyclef Jean announced he'll run for president of Haiti.

"I think he's in a position where he can definitely make a difference," said Dongo, adopting a wait-and-see stance about Jean's presidential bid. In the midst of post-earthquake confusion, she says, she's more concerned about "a plan of how people are going to vote. I'm afraid of disenfranchisement."

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