recently had the pleasure of reading judith angeles’ new chapbook He Art . judith was kind enough to answer some questions i sent her (q&a posted below) about her work, her process, publishing, community, and being a spoken/written word artist. enjoy:
1) Throughout your chapbook, you explore different kinds of love and relationships. Why is this an important theme in your work? How is poetry a powerful venue for this theme?
Love is in the middle of everything. It is passion in its most vulnerable state. If there wasn’t any passion, we would not exist. It is the energy that moves us through the day and through life. Creativity is the driving force of love, for everything. We would not exist with creativity, without love. A newborn needs love for it to thrive and so do we, adults. As adults we still look for acceptance, a caress, someone to compliment our life, companionship, someone to grow and learn with, friends. Oddly enough, sometimes language cannot enter into our feelings – this is where poetry comes into play, for what we feel is often imagistic and cannot be told if not through metaphor or analogy. Sometimes words are limiting and take away from who really are. But with poetry, language can be broken and be put together in a way that suits its creator and hopefully the reader. My chapbook, He Art, didn’t come first, the poems did. As of yet, I do not write with the intention of publishing. I write, first and foremost, to preserve my sanity and then I revise, so it could be good, and then the idea for the chapbook came later. It came way after the poems were done and tampered with enough for them to be on their own.
2) Your work “sleeps and works in metaphors”–describe what you feel is the power of figurative language.
The power of figurative language is that it can literally change you. When you read something so powerful that you are changed in that single moment- that is powerful. Have you ever read something and suddenly your hair rises, your skin (forms) bumps, that is power- the power to change you without expecting to be changed… Figurative language, weakens you, expands your thoughts and your heart.
3) This is your first self-published chapbook. Why did you decide to self-publish? What has been its rewards and challenges?
I decided to self-publish because I believe in having the ultimate control over my well-being and my art. I trust in my writing that much. Poetry is my well-being. I also am all about sovereignty and I am not willing to change to suit a certain canon or any of that other foolishness. I am not into “selling out” or remolding myself to suit a particular kind of not-me. I also decided to self-publish because I found it to be a selfless thing to do and because I am into the art of bookmaking and now digital bookmaking. I also aspire to be a publisher and to have a community based, co-op styled printing house for artists and writers to come in and be a part of a printing community that preserves its culture through storytelling and archives. So, I decided to invest the money I would have spend to self-publish my own book and invested the money in buying the equipment I would need to produce not only my own book, but also of others. As of now, I have the capability to print chapbooks, business cards, flyers, brochures, postcards and so on. I am continuing to save, so I can buy higher end machines… but that comes with time. The rewards is in the satisfaction of making something on your own. Everything from picking paper, laying out the book, printing, scoring, binding, and trimming. That also entails the frustration and the amount of time it takes to produce an end product. It is a lot of work doing it on your own. I hope to later have more people come on board. I guess another challenge would be the profit end of things, but because I just started, I am not well versed in knowing this side of things. But, from what I have heard publishing is not a profitable business, but those are not my initial intentions anyway.
4) According to your bio, you are a successful spoken word artist. What do you feel is the relationship between spoken word poetry and written poetry?
The relationship between written poetry and spoken word poetry depends on the individual writer… For me, I write first. I write, write, write and revise. They’re times when a poem comes to me all at once and I don’t have to bother with it too long. Usually when revising, sound plays a big part in revision. I read the poem aloud and f the poem does not sound right, if it doesn’t carry its own flow, then I may have to rearrange words or rewrite them. Because poetry is so close to song, I think that is very important for the poem to not only stand on its own on paper but also stand in someone else’s mouth when being read out loud.
5) You are also involved in community writing programs–can you tell us about your experience working with various community writing groups?
In working with community groups I have seen how writing poetry is transformative. I have seen students who come from the inner-city, who are considered the worst behaved, with the lowest academic standards, do a complete turnaround with their attitudes and uncover their critical thinking skills and become avid and involved readers. I have seen them become hopeful and promising. I have seen them go off to college and graduate. I have seen them even enter law school. These writing communities, like Acentos and Urban Word NYC, are just a community of artists who believe that investing in the literacy of their community can spark the revolution one student, one poet, one writer at a time.
This is why I started Zion Imprints (www.zionimprints.com) and am working to make it a nonprofit press for the people. A step towards creating meaningful, relevant literature that can be used in the classroom, prisons, and homes. It is about time we heal by telling our stories. It is about time we not only teach, but preserve literacy, so that when we are no longer here. Our lessons remain and nothing is loss. Let’s create our own path, with our own history, and our own textbooks. I’m tired of reading in between the lines for pieces of myself.
Right now, it is just a step. But, I am steadily keeping one foot in front of the other. Looking forward to building with potential mentors, poets, artists, educators, and free-thinkers.