Far From Home / An interview with poet Tiffany Shaw-Diaz

Far from Home

by Tiffany Shaw-Diaz

It’s a long drive to the art museum. An hour, minus rush hour, to be exact. So, I pass the time repeating some mantras that, according to all of these popular self-help books I read, will greatly benefit my mental health:

I am beautiful.

I am worthy.

I am safe.

Honestly, I am still waiting to see if they work, but in the meantime, I guess they can’t hurt.

self-love
I tell myself
what they don’t

First appeared in Scryptic 2018.

10444790_10204325484277516_7252903396581532594_nTiffany Shaw-Diaz is an award-winning poet who has been featured in Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Acorn, Presence, and dozens of other publications. She is the founder and director of The Co-op Poetry Lab and a professional artist.

Tiffany says her style is always changing: “I love shifting my energy around from haiku to tanka to haibun to experimental forms. I go where the muse takes me, and I enjoy that sense of discovery. In terms of theme, I have tackled some very difficult subjects, but I have also written about many humorous and light subjects, too. Quite frankly, I’m all over the place, but I always try to approach whatever style or theme I’m working on in a way that’s raw and relatable.”

Bekah and Tiffany’s work, including the poem above, recently appeared together in Issue 2.1 of Scryptic Magazine of Alternative Art. We wanted to know more about her and her work, so here is our interview with her.

Q~Tell us about “Far From Home.” The poem seems to say more by what it leaves out. Is that part of the appeal of short-form poetry for you?

A~That one, in particular, was very inspired. I remember writing it on a Saturday morning, and the words flowed out of me. It’s a work that is quite personal; however, I tried to not impose my own experience on it too much. I wanted to leave it a little open-ended. There is a time and place for in-your-face candor, and there is also a time and a place where I prefer to come alongside the reader and simply say, “I understand.” The haiku at the end is very vague (self-love/I tell myself/what they don’t). Who is “they”? I know who “they” is for me. But I want the reader to figure out who “they” is for themselves. Perhaps it’s an abusive family member or a toxic job environment. The point is that we all have someone or someplace that doesn’t love or support us in the way we deserve, and it is important to recognize that for our personal healing journeys.

Q~What’s your writing process usually like?

A~I tend to be very spontaneous. I tried to adopt a schedule at one point, and that didn’t work well. Additionally, if I am low on creative energy or I haven’t created in a while, I try to not judge that. An important part of creating is not creating. In the absence of creation, you are preparing yourself for the next wave of artistic energy, and that behind-the-scenes work is so critical. Honor those dry spells. If you don’t take breaks for reflection and growth, you run the risk of becoming stagnant in your work.

Q~What is a literary gem you feel deserves more attention?

A~One new publication of note is #FemkuMag, which publishes haiku written by women. It is edited by the awesome Lori A Minor, and you can learn more about it here: https://femkumag.wixsite.com/femkumag

Q~Is there any other online resource you’d like to recommend?

A~Absolutely. If you are a short-form poet, Facebook is a good resource. There are so many groups on there that alert you to contests, new publications, and deadlines, and they also provide a great opportunity for workshopping and connection. Some of my favorite FB groups are Virtual Haiku, The Haibun Hut, and Buds of Haiku. At this point, the majority of my FB friends are poets, and I love seeing their work in my News Feed. It’s inspiring! Even though I am on Facebook very little these days, I enjoy checking in with the aforementioned groups when I can.

Q~What are your poetry highs/lows of the last year?

A~Last year, I was quite blessed to win the 21st Indian Kukai, be short-listed for the 2nd Annual H. Gene Murtha Memorial Senryu Contest, and make appearances in several major publications and media outlets. I never thought I would have such a successful first year. On the flip side, however, I am still painfully aware of the many awful poems I’ve made and continue to make! I seriously hope I’m not alone in cringing at old work sent to editors. I know rejections are a sore subject for poets, but I’m thankful for them. They keep me balanced and motivated.

Q~What’s one piece of advice you want to share? 

A~Short-form poetry is addictive, and I don’t mean that in a positive way. There are an endless number of publications to submit to. There are an endless number of contests to enter. And it is very, very easy to get caught up in the fray of accumulating accolades and credits and comparing. I know I did. If you begin to compare your creative trajectory to someone else’s, you will run the risk of extinguishing your own unique fire.

Q~You are also a visual artist. How do you balance your creative interests? How do they interplay if at all?

A~At this point, I have come to the conclusion that there is no way I can be successful at all of my ventures all the time, which has been a freeing and humbling revelation. There are times when I want to write poetry and only poetry, and then there are times when I feel compelled to exclusively create in a visual manner. I try to follow my inspiration and not force anything. Because I am both a poet and visual artist, people frequently ask if I’ve tried haiga (a combination of art and haiku). Believe me, I’ve tried it. I’m terrible at it, and the irony of that isn’t lost on me. But, I am OK with that. I enjoy poetry for what it is in my life, and the same goes for my visual art. In many ways, I like that they exist in separate spheres.

Q~Where can readers go to see more of your work?

A~My poetry blog is afterpinkhaiku.blogspot.com and my art website is www.tiffanyshawdiaz.com. On social media I have Facebook and Instagram accounts for my art. I also have an option for people to follow me on Facebook, and all of my posts are public.

Some of Tiffany’s Visual Art:

Awake
Awake
Our-Warmth
Our Warmth
Textured-Anemone
Textured Anemone

 

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