AUTHOR of SCREAMING AT THE VOID
I had the pleasure of promoting Erica and her new book, Screaming at the Void . Here is an interview with a most interesting woman.
1. Your new book features some of the 1000+ poems you’ve written over the years. What drew you to write poetry? Poetry comes easy to me. I don’t slave over my work, I don’t edit my writing, or look back once I write something, so the process is simple and quite frankly perfectly fits the on goings of my mind. My writing more or less reflects the beats of my brain, and poetry seems to be the best manifestation of how my mind processes information which in turn results to words on a page. It’s funny cause even when I write prose, if you break up the sentences, it reads like a poem. Wherever my brain is and how it is operating in that moment, will be reflected on the page, and for some reason or another, poetry is pretty much the only form that I am decent at and do my best to produce work that exemplifies how I see the world.
2. What do you consider is the importance of poetry? I don’t think poetry is better or worse than other forms of writing, but, due to the fact that it has a way to creatively free the mind, for me, it puts it in another category of literature. It’s not like you have to adhere to grammatical boundaries or worry about punctuation or what’s considered “proper” English. You have the ability to truly play around with language. When I took my first English class in college I remember my professor calling me into his office and saying “I’m not going to mince words, your writing needs serious attention.” I was like sweet! I’m good! When really he was saying I had no business being an English major. I walked away across campus thinking we’ll see about that. So looking back I think I did break conventional rules of writing in my work, and laid the groundwork to step outside the box and through poetry could execute that.
3. What do you want readers to understand and take away from your poems? Keep it real in life. All of my writing stems from my real life experiences, and I am true to that and hope others can resonate with topics that I explore. Whether I receive good or bad responses, I find that either way people are impacted by my work. It’s funny cause I do have haters out there that get offended or uncomfortable when they read some of my material, and I love it, embrace it. I welcome people that may have an uncomfortable experience cause I know deep down I am striking a chord with them, and hopefully opening a door for them to further examine why they respond to my work the way that they do.
4. What other contemporary poets have influenced or inspired you? I do not read much contemporary poetry. I sometimes think Bukowski and I share some similarities in life. I know he lived in Downtown LA as do I and he would write stuff that may be over the top, and I tend to do that as well. He also suffered from a mood disorder which is reflected in his work which I can identify with. I used to go to readings in New York and LA and would come across different poets but no one really stood out to me. I did manage to read out loud some of my work which most of the time ended in a silent room and I’d be like okayyy… maybe my stuff was too serious or out there; I don’t know. I think my writing is something to read on paper. I don’t think vocalizing my work is how one should experience my poetry. My work is intimate so having a crowd sit there and listen doesn’t really make sense to me.
5. What made you decide to have the poems psychoanalyzed? It was John’s idea, and when I first read John’s commentary on my poem The Void it struck me in its insight and analytical expertise. He pointed out things I never thought about with my work, or myself. Then when we first started working together I was on the fence about exposing some of the insight he brought forth cause it was intense and hard to swallow, so we almost decided to quit the project. He was dead set on writing a book that took things to another level, and I remember deciding that I was going to have blind trust in this person I barely knew, and just go for it. And as we went along with the work there were times I was seriously challenged to let him write what he wanted and just let it go. It’s quite amazing for someone to take words on a page made in a conscious state of mind, and be able to bring forth the deeper subconscious meaning behind those words.
6. What did you learn about yourself during this process? That I have a lot of work to do. When I would read John’s analysis I felt like I was getting years of free therapy. There is so much unbelievable insight and information he was able to glean from my work that I was forced to really think about my upbringing, my life, my relationships, all of it. It was hard, but I did learn that my work has deeper meaning then I would never image which is pretty cool, which means there are deeper things going on inside me that I am forced to address or take a look at, and thankfully have the opportunity through poetry do explore that. I also never considered myself a collaborative writer but we both brought such unique things to the table, yet, managed to make it work as a whole was truly innovating.
7. What did you learn about your poetry during this process? That there is more to my poetry then I could ever have imagined. I have been writing for two decades now and although I am not a known poet, even if I wanted to quit or give up I couldn’t cause poetry is me. During this process I realized that my writing carries weight on a whole other level. It’s exciting.
8. What is your favorite poem in the book? Why? All of my writing stems from my real life experience that shapes into a story. I have a few poems in the book about my experience having a citizen’s arrest and spending the night in jail for a DUI. I read them recently and laughed out loud, but, they weren’t really all that funny when I really thought about it. But my mug shot is in the book which is very funny. I’m smiling in it cause at the time I thought maybe I’d be a known poet some day and if people look me up and find a mugshot of me I wouldn’t look all scary and disheveled like Gary Busey or something. John has fantastic analysis on it which is very eye opening.
9. You write a lot about your mental health in your poems. How has it affected your poetry? Well, I have to take medication twice a day, stay on top of my physical and mental health, so it’s a part of my life on a daily basis so does affect my work. My mental illness is not only a subject matter in my work, but is literally shown on through my stylistic techniques. For example, a poem about mania will express itself on the page with exclamation points and bold words etc… it’s as if I can track my moods not only in the material but how I write the material. My writing wouldn’t be what it is without my mood disorder which I am grateful for.
10. How can we encourage more people to read more poetry? With the power of social media, I think combining poetry with a visual medium could be impactful and fun. For example, I have made close to 100 web clips of my poetry which I can tweet and post on my YouTube channel. What I think is exciting is I make videos of poetry play them out where my actions match the poem with voiceover, or I am doing some everyday activity like putting on makeup or moving laundry into the dryer, but I'm thinking about a guy I just met or a date I went on so you see a person going about their day and hear what they are actually thinking inside. I think would be really cool is if people would create their own videos. They could pick one of their favorite poems, and produce their own rendition of the work. For example, I have a poem about breaking up. Almost everyone has had that experience at some point in their life, so a person can read my work but have the freedom to produce a visual of that work however they want to, and you’d end up having a burst of creativity and an online dialogue that could change how people approach poetry. It could be a fun way for people to express themselves and see the relevance of poetry as it becomes live on the screen.
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