Juggling the many hats of worker, mother, partner, community organizer, writer, and artist requires a lot of laughter and an ability to be resilient. I've always taken Arthur Ashe's words to heart when sitting down to write or to create anything: "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."
Each writer of the blog tour is asked the following questions. Here's what I had to say:
1) What am I working on?
I've got a few things up my sleeve pretty much at all times. In addition to beginning research on my dissertation, which analyzes fabulist works by Black women novelists, I'm juggling essays/articles, some fiction, and of course, the poems. I'm excited about my current manuscript which examines matters of the heart through the lens of the natural world, from the cosmic to the cellular. To that end, my work has become a bit more meditative lately, less interested in amazons and bird-women 'n stuff and more into the sciences. I'm learning so much about the unsung heroes of the natural world. Like, recently I wrote a poem in praise of the Red Velvet Mite, a half-inch arachnid that looks like a crimson bean-bag with legs. And in another piece I talk about how the moon is really the congealed cast-off crust from the Earth while the solar system was forming billions of years ago and the planets were basically slinging themselves into one another, punch-drunk on gravity. I love learning how stars are born, how galaxies are oriented around black holes, how we're all made of stardust. Since it's too late for me to become an astrophysicist or naturalist, I just geek out in the poems.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I suppose, even among Black poets, I'm a bit of an anomaly. One minute I'm writing about a dragon in the bathroom, the next, I'm coming at you in the voice of a slave cadaver being operated upon for "spare parts" in the mid 19th-century. I'm not afraid to stray away from mimesis. Whatever gets the job done. In fact, I prefer speculation, so you're gonna get a few deities and dead bodies piping up in my work. I'm of the mindset that sometimes you have to paint a tree pink to get people to notice it, so I tend to veil real world issues and questions in a bit of bedazzle to better understand them. This helps me work through problems and also entice a reader's imagination so they trust me. I am not really into "looking glass" poetry where it seems as though the poet is constantly holding up a little compact mirror all the time. Nobody's that interesting. But at the end of the day, I'm a storyteller. The story chooses the form and the players, so there's a lot of genre-bending in my work and a lot of experimentation in terms of content and voice especially. Nothing is sacred or off-limits.
3) Why do I write what I do?
It took a long time to accept the weird in my work and there are times where even I'm like, oh God, Bianca, not another mermaid poem. But, seriously, who wouldn't find the legend behind the "simbi" fascinating? Come on, the twice-born ancestors? Black mermaids that followed slave ships across the Middle Passage?? Who wouldn't want to hear that one? Ultimately, I write what I want to read. And I'm all about artistic transparency. There are no secrets.. No passwords. No coded messages. For me, art is a conversation. My job is to start the conversation and hope that I am effective enough so that the reader/viewer picks up where I leave off.
4) How does my writing process work?
Unless I'm collaborating, my writing/creative process is pretty lonesome. I spend a lot of time by myself when I'm in this phase. I don't do well creating around other people or even another person. I used to be able to write in a coffee-shop with the headphones on, but now I just stare at people like a creeper because I'm nosy and enjoy people-watching. So if I want to get work done, I'm in my studio with the door shut and the incense burning. I'm also learning how to operate within little pockets of time and not sit around waiting for a huge chunk to fall in my lap, as that's becoming rarer the more I shoulder in my professional life and other creative pursuits. And I enjoy writing challenges like NaPoWriMo/NaNoWriMo because you get a lot of crap out of your system and can feel free to go nuts and experiment, groping around for inspiration in places you might not normally look for it. I tend to write fast too so, for me, the real work occurs in the editing stages which can take years of wrestling a piece to the ground by its horns. They don't tell you when you sign up to be a writer a) how much work it is, and b) how difficult it can be to let go of a piece. But more importantly than when I write or how I pull it off is the intent that I approach the page, which is as a student. I can always learn something new from the process, whether that's in research or how to continue writing without giving into a carousel of doubt and fear.
Next Up on the Blogroll (June 17, 2014):