Earlier this month Rena Priest, a poet, writer, producer and community activist, interviewed me for her new radio program “Writer’s Shout Out”. Her one-hour interview program takes a look at the life of a writer and the things that inspire them.
This program aired on the non-profit, community station KZAX-LP FM 94.9 last week.
It was a fun time!
The first time I heard Dee Dee share her poetry was in 2011 at the infamous Poetry Night Open Mic when it was located at the Amadeus Project on Cornwall. She had the guts to walk up on stage and share a process poem about an intimate subject matter, then return to her chair like a boss. She blew my hair back! My little poem about sunlight coming through the trees was as light as the paper it was printed on. This chick digs into some heavy stuff—and I love it. You will too.
Dee Dee continues to open eyes, minds and hearts with her collection Colluvium. Described as, “Heavily informed by her childhood moving around the mountains of the Southwest, the sixteen poems of Colluvium address the issues of family, religion, boundaries and personal identity in a complicated and insightful manner.”
Get to know this poet. She will not disappoint.
Hope you enjoy my interview (March 2015) with Dee Dee.
Congratulations on the release of Colluvium. Tell me more about it.
Thank you! “Colluvium” is a geologic term for what settles at the bottom of a hill after any number of changes to a landscape (avalanche, soil creep, frost action). Once I discovered the term I knew it was the perfect title for the chapbook. For me, it’s an accumulation of my best work as a writer since moving to Washington. It’s about the ruptures, realizations, and continual questions I explore about the concept of “self.” I’ve always been fascinated by identity, and the book examines that explicitly.
What is your background? Where are you from?
I moved around a lot growing up, most of the time spending less than two years in one place. I was born in Utah and moved here from Colorado. Each time I was the “new kid” I got a chance to be a different person. Having lived in one place (Bellingham) for almost seven years now has been an enormous and wonderful change for me. A lot of Colluvium’s material comes from finally holding still long enough to look back and examine a lot of mine and my parents’ background. It’s about how I’m still trying to understand why I am who I am, or why anyone is who they are.
Your poems are riddled with emotion. What is the “Open Mic” experience like for you?
While I’m now much more comfortable behind a microphone, there is almost always a “backlash” of emotion after being so open about a lot of personal moments in my life, where I feel overwhelmingly vulnerable. Of course, I believe vulnerability is crucial. A poet should feel vulnerable. It teaches other people that it’s okay to open up to others, conveys that as alone as anyone can feel at times, there is someone out there going through something similar, who made it through and came out the other side okay.
What does your writing process look like? How do you begin a poem?
It’s different each time. Sometimes I set out to write a specific poem, sometimes it comes from furious scribbling at the end of a hard day, or at two in the morning after I’ve been staring out my window for hours. I usually take time away from a poem after I first write it down, and come back to it later when the emotions behind it aren’t so fresh. Then I can look at it objectively, tinker and bring it to any of my wonderful fellow poets for thorough editing. Robert Lashley did the largest amount of editing for Colluvium, and without him I don’t know if I would ever have felt confident enough in my work to publish it.
Where does your muse live?
Between my knuckles.
Just as your book inspires authors, what authors have inspired you?
I used to read fiction almost exclusively, and have only now started reading more poets’ entire bodies of work. To name a few authors I love: Mary Shelley, Sharon Olds, Elizabeth Bishop, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Philip K. Dick, Bret Easton Ellis and Joyce Carol Oates.
Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with?
The fellow writers in Bellingham are a thousand times more inspiring than anyone else. I’ve met most of them through Western Washington University or Poetry Night. Bruce Beasley, Robert Lashley, Elizabeth Vignali, Erica Reed, Taneum Bambrick, Hannah Newman, Charlie Lynn, Niko Stathakopoulous, Reilly Hannigan, and Keith Wiley. Without them, I would not have had the courage to publish my poems myself.
Are you on Facebook or Twitter? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?
I am on Facebook, though I don’t specifically have an author page. So far I have used my personal page as an additional means to spread the word about poetry events in Bellingham in general, and in the last few months to promote my own features and events.
What are you up to when you’re not writing?
If I have free time, I’m usually watching movies. I’m the manager at Film is Truth 24 Times a Second (a locally owned video rental store), which is transitioning to become a nonprofit. It’s a really exciting time that I’m grateful to be a part of. I am also working towards a Creative Writing major and Accounting minor at Western Washington University.
What are you working on now? What is your next project?
When I have time to write, it’s usually either poetry about movies or a series of accounting poems I’m attempting. The language of accounting is so unique. If I can make it work I’d like to publish a book that uses those terms to discuss the way we value ourselves as individuals in a larger society. We’ll see if I pull it off in a way both accountants and poets would understand.
How can people purchase your book? Contact you?
There are still copies at Village Books in Fairhaven, and maybe one or two left at The Bureau of Historical Investigation on West Holly street in downtown Bellingham. I also am known to keep a few with me at Film is Truth, if someone wants to buy one from me directly. I have less than 20 left, which still astounds me. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you Dee Dee. Is there a poem of yours you’d like to share with the readers?
The truth is that we were running. It didn’t matter what from.
Just summer again; Pinesol and boxes, our hands tinted charcoal-black from wrapping newspaper around dishes. It meant Neil Diamond, Abba, Jim Croce playing through the house at full volume. It meant removing any hint of our presence from every neglected crevice. It meant seeing my bedroom, stretched like a stomach, filled and emptied.
I’m a Capricorn, a goat. My birthday is January 5th. My legal name is Diane Chapman but on my birth certificate, I was “Diane Violate Barlow.” A testament to my father’s name as well as his lack of education. He meant my middle name to tell the world I was soft and sweet as his Grandmother, Violet.
He just spelled it wrong.
No one noticed for ten years.
Mountain goats have two coats. The dense inner layer is hidden beneath another of stronger, hollow strands. This is how they withstand winter temperatures fifty degrees below and winds that travel one hundred miles an hour. They must be cloaked twice; a protective boundary that, if you look close enough, is empty.
On January 3rd, 1870, construction began on the Brooklyn Bridge. An estimated twenty or thirty people died building it. One of them was my ancestor, who fell into the concrete as it was poured. He was buried there: bones, flesh, fluids and name.
He left behind a wife with eleven children. Unable to support them all, she adopted some out to a family of the English surname
I’ve been having the same dream, intermittently, all my life:
I’m driving up a mountain pass in the snow with my family. The turns are impossible switchbacks that take hours to ascend. At the top we crest a peak so acute that the car should stop, high-centered. Instead, we go screaming down the other side, our guts sucked tight into our stomachs. Instead of relief, we plummet.
Mountain goats are the only species the genus Oreamnos. It’s a derivation, split between the term oros (“mountain”)/oreas (“mountain nymph”) and amnos, “lamb.”
If the lamb is meek, and the nymph so free, is it the mountain that makes the goat?
After all, it’s by rubbing against rocks that they molt.
It all started with a bouquet of flowers. Left on the circle table in the center of my new apartment positioned gracefully in a heavy crystal vase, a hand-me-down from my mother. Multi-colored assorted. They brightened the room and matched my shower curtain, and the bedspreads.
The second Monday morning, in my new apartment, the petals had been arranged around the table to form a question.
“Why do you write?”
Was it the wind, blown in from an open window, did I walk in my sleep, pulled the petals off for entertainment, or perhaps a spirit was involved. The bouquet, only 5 days old. Petals fell silently overnight to form words.
An interpretation of my mood, a call, a moaning of my soul. A topic I struggle with at times when it seems it does not matter if I write or not.
Why do I get up at 3 a.m. and search my ceiling for answers as I see the month’s events unfold? Why do I turn a scene at the grocery store between a door beggar and a suburbanite into prose? Why should I want to take a dream and give it chapters?
I see myself in my minds world sitting on a great rock, overlooking other magnificent mountain ranges of rock. A traveler comes by with a question in a flower. “Writer, why must you write? Does the world need another book?”
No, it doesn’t.
“Stranger,” I tell the traveler, “here is something you must know. An artist must do their art. It is a gift from heaven, or nature if you an atheists. A gift that must be obeyed. For me, some poems are built others born. But the “chaser”, the gift within the gift—the work MUST be shared.”
A cat howls at another in the distant bush, a Nighthawk announces to others: it is here, it is here.
The end of my story. Do flowers talk to us? Can they see us struggle in the night with worry, and words? Are they aware of the gifts from heaven and nature, and read us like tea leaves at the bottom of a blue kilned cup? My ending has more questions. Only because there is never an ending.