Bonner shares poetic side, intends to inspire others


The Daily Illini File Photo

Running back Ra’Von Bonner rushes the ball during the game against Kent State at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 1, 2018. The junior wants to be known for more than just his role on the field; he wants to make a difference — using his poetry.

By Jared Farmer, Staff Writer

Ra’Von Bonner wants to bring more than just his A-game to fans across the country. He wants to spread his writing, too.

“I believe that’s the purpose of it,” Bonner said. “I want to get more of my writing out there, beyond just my friend groups and people,” Bonner said. “I used to keep it to myself, but I felt that I could really do something with this.”

The junior running back has been writing spoken word poetry since he was a kid. His mom reads and writes poetry as well, which led to him gaining an appreciation for writing over time.

“I do a lot of the things she does,” Bonner said. “I major in Social Work, which is what she used to major in as an undergrad,” Bonner said. “She’s my biggest inspiration.”

Bonner reads spoken word poetry in front of his church, in small groups or just around his friends. Last year, he even shared some of his work on his social media, although he eventually took it down.

“It’s different when somebody just reads the words versus actually hearing my voice,” Bonner said. “Hearing all the pain and emotion and feelings behind it makes a big difference.”

The creativity of the spoken word is what attracts Bonner to poetry the most. For him, it’s unique, and it’s more than words alone. There’s a story behind every piece, which he hopes will affect someone in a positive way.

He doesn’t have a hard time finding inspiration to write, either. In his spoken word, Bonner writes about anxiety, depression, everyday struggles and life as a student-athlete. His writing also keeps him honest with himself and reminds him he’s human whenever he’s stressed or anxious.

“I feel like sometimes, I struggle with being vulnerable,” Bonner said. “I felt like poetry was an outlet to do that. So anything I don’t want to say face-to-face, I can write down in the form of a poem or spoken word. That’s more effective for me and for somebody else who may be doing the same thing. This journey in life, no matter what you do or who you believe in, there’s nobody who’s strong enough to do it all on their own. You’ll need something there that’s going to help pick you up when you’re down.”

Bonner said his heart breaks when he sees others struggling. Knowing what it feels like to be in a funk, he looks to his pen to help encourage and inspire others to keep moving.

“When I write, it’s not about saying how ‘I have it all together,’” Bonner said. “If anything, it’s to say ‘Me, too.’ I know what you’re going through. I’ve experienced that pain. But I want you to know that there’s healing for you, too.”

For many like Bonner, the infinite expressions poetry conveys is what draws them in. It allows people to be their most inventive, imaginative selves, he said. It can provide a mental break from stressors, but for Bonner, it’s also an opportunity to confront his thoughts head-on.

“You can always try to run from your problems,” Bonner said. “Personally, I could’ve just kept running and running and not deal with my anxieties, but eventually, I have to come back to it. For me, it’s a very big deal because I’m always thinking about,  ‘How can I help my teammates? How can I help my friends, my mom, my sister?’ All things like that. But you have to have some form of self-care. You have to sometimes put yourself first. So that’s why poetry helps me.”

Writing has made Bonner who he is today and stronger mentally. Life’s battles will continue to come, but when putting pen to paper, he’s ready to take a deep breath and punch through it.

“This football stuff is going to end one day,” Bonner said. “Whether it be at the end of next year or after a few years in the NFL, I don’t want to be remembered just as Ra’Von, the football player. I want people to hear the name Ra’Von Bonner and say they knew him as somebody who cared, made a difference and put other people before himself.”


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