Tag Archives: art

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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Broken Vision / an interview with poet Susan “Spit-Fire” Lively

Broken Vision

by Susan “Spit-Fire” Lively

War is genocide.
++++++++++++++++ Life is murder…

Rwanda, Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, the Holocaust, Uganda, Darfur,
Congo, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Kenya, Afghanistan.
When will the world learn?
How can we change these?
When we cannot even stop the wars in our homes,
the wars in our neighborhood,
the war within.

In this and every election,
they say it is the economy.
But in this and nearly every election,
money’s all the same you see.
We’ll cut aid to the poor.
Kick people from their homes,
kick the mentally ill from shelters,
kick the teachers from the classroom,
kick the homeless off the sidewalk,
before we’ll give up our wars.
The national addiction,
the economic infrastructure,
the empire building.
We admired the wrong selected memories of the victors’ histories,
recruited Nazi master scientists,
modeled ourselves after the great fallen Rome;
embracing racism, classism, sexism, and the destruction of the pro-labor system.
Is this our destiny, our unified syndrome?
How can we fix;
how can we conquer in this
broken vision?

susan

Susan “Spit-Fire” Lively is a poet, spoken word artist, model, producer, photographer, visual artist, educator, and activist from Belleville, IL. Co-organizer of 100,000 Poets & Musicians for Change – St. Louis since its inception in 2011; Susan also produces the series First Bloom (celebrating women’s history month) and Women For Peace (promoting gender violence awareness), and co-produces the Dia de los Muertos Fiesta with Maria Guadalupe Massey. In 2016 she became an Officer of Urb Arts’ Executive Board. In January of 2017 Susan produced the St. Louis leg of the international event Poets & Musicians Against Trump (with co-producer John Blair). Lively’s been featured on Literature For The Halibut, The Arts with Nancy Kranzberg, WESLTV -24 and PBS’ Living St. Louis. She has taught spoken word and creative writing at Confluence Academy, Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition, and for the Nine Network and St. Louis Fringe.

Susan says of her style, “People often say that my spoken word delivery or style is very unusual and lyrical; I’m often asked if I’m a singer. Some of my spoken word poetry has bits of song, and I even rap in a few pieces. I also like to cover a wide variety of topics, so I’d say my style is unique.”

Bekah and Susan connected via social media. Susan is active in the poetry community in St. Louis, where Bekah lives. We wanted to know more about Susan, so here is our interview with her.

Q~Can you tell us a little about your poem, “Broken Vision”?

A~The back story for this particular poem is simply that I am anti-war. I think that we should reconsider our priorities as a country far ahead of the next election. The world in general should spend a lot less time wasting money and lives on weapons, war, death and hate, and a lot more time should be spent promoting self-worth, growth, connectivity, equality, justice, and love for all human beings.

Q~Did it come easily to you or was it hard to write?

A~This piece came easily to me, but some pieces prove more difficult than others. Some pieces require a lot of research and editing, and others don’t. Sometimes if I get stuck on a piece, it’s best to leave it lie and come back to it later with a fresh perspective.

Q~You are active as a spoken word artist and in publishing poetry. Why does spoken word appeal to you?

A~Spoken word appeals to me as an art form because it’s passionate, intelligent, and vibrant. Spoken word has many different faces and styles and is an art form that’s been around for a while but is continually evolving.

Q~Who were your poetry and slam first loves?

A~My first loves in poetry were a lot of the known greats like Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, and Dylan Thomas. I instantly fell in love with spoken word and slam poetry when I discovered Saul Williams and Sonia Sanchez. I actually heard Williams first in one of my college literature classes. I found his style, content, and presentation electrifying and was instantly hooked. I discovered more of Sonia Sanchez’s work through my time with the Eugene B. Redmond Writers Club of East St. Louis (to learn more about club meetings/events, contact Dr. Redmond at ebr@siue.edu). I found her work to be gripping, energetic, and deep. I loved how thought-provoking her poems were and her spoken word style is so fiery and unique.

Q~What is the poet’s role in society?

A~I believe that the poet’s role in society is the same as every artist’s role: to speak truth to power. But, I also believe that art has many purposes, from the deeply political and social aspects to just the simple enjoyment of a great work of beauty. The artist role is to inspire and to move others in as many ways as possible simply by being the best version of themselves and letting art be the medium for their expression.

Q~Tell us more about the causes you champion with your poetry?

A~I am involved in several different causes in the arts community. Two of the shows I produce are Women for Peace and 100 Thousand Poets and Musicians for Change – St. Louis. Women for Peace was created by my friend Katerina Canyon and I in 2013 to promote Gender Violence Awareness. The show has featured a remarkable group of gifted local women artists who are all leaders in our community. These women and all the artists I work with are a constant inspiration to me. This year we are thrilled to be working with Urb Arts again and will be having our Five Year Anniversary show there on June 4th at 7:00 p.m.100% of the donations from the show will benefit the wonderful and enriching artistic programs and events at Urb Arts

100 Thousand Poets & Musicians for Change – St. Louis is actually an official offshoot of two international umbrella shows created by Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion (100 Thousand Poets for Change and 100 Thousand Musicians for Change). The St. Louis show (Saturday, Sept. 29th) is now in its eighth year and features over fifty local artists. Local NPO’s will also be present to pass out information and accept donations. In the past we’ve had the honor of working with Amnesty International, the Peace Economy Project, and many other great nonprofits. Each year the show is live streamed and recorded for placement in Stanford University’s LOCKSS Historic Preservation System as part of the largest poetry event in history.

Q~How would you describe the St. Louis poetry scene?

A~The St. Louis poetry scene is very dynamic. The entire art scene in the greater STL/Metro East region is ablaze with talent! As a spoken word artist and event producer, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and become friends with some amazing, intelligent, creative people. The range of styles here is also incredible. Someday the outside world will see us as we see ourselves: St. Louis is a growing Mecca for the arts.

Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in more of your work?

A~Here is a video performance link. This is “The Key” at Women for Peace at Urb Arts in STL (Previously published in the St. Louis social justice anthology, Crossing the Divide.)  My work has been published in Static Movement, Postcard Shorts, Head To Hand, The East St. Louis Monitor, The PEN, Chance Operations, Drumvoices Revue 20th Anniversary Edition, SIUE News, Big Bridge, No Vacancy, the She Chronicles, and Some ‘N Unique Magazine. My art exhibits have been featured at Urb Arts, Mokabe’s, Seven, Yeyo Arts, and more and can now be purchased at fineartamerica.com.  You can also connect with me on Facebook and Instagram, or for booking info., you can email me at lostnation2009@gmail.com.