It happens every few months: Joshua T. Dickerson will log onto social media and see his most famous poem circulating, attributed to someone else.
The cycle struck again this week. A viral tweet claimed that the poem, “Cause I Ain’t Got a Pencil,” was written by a Baltimore City Public Schools student.
Dickerson is a 38-year-old man from Atlanta.
And a very good-natured one, at that.
“My poem has been ‘written’ by a couple different people at this point,” he said. “Sometimes I address it, sometimes I don’t. But this time, it really caught fire.”
He said he understands why someone might think his poem was written by a Baltimore student. The experience described in the piece has played out here, he said, “without a shadow of a doubt.”
Dickerson said his poem, which he wrote in April 2014, has resonated with many people.
He was inspired to pen the piece after he saw a heartbreaking scene play out in an Atlanta school.
He watched a child approach his teacher to ask for a pencil. The teacher said they’d give the student a pencil, but only if he traded in one of his shoes as collateral.
“The child took off the shoe and he had a dirty sock on and it caused the other students in the class to laugh at him,” Dickerson said. “I wrote a story about what I imagined happened prior to that moment.”