Tell me a little about yourself. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the state line area, mostly Beloit, then I flew out of there at 19. I came here, dropped out of college, and have been here ever since.
So, when did you start writing poetry?
I have been writing bad poetry since I was 11, and I have been writing good poetry, I think, for about the last three years.
I remember taking the poetry units in school. I loved it from the moment I was exposed to it. [I] loved looking at vocabulary and new words and figuring out what [writers] were saying. Just enthralled with the whole concept…It was not a leap that I would start writing my own. But back then, I had to follow forms: I had to rhyme and make cute limerick-type poems. Very full of drama and angst of the young child I was. I remember trying to get very deep by writing metaphors of fairies and dragons.
Speed up to three years ago, what happened? What made you want to connect to the page in this way again?
You know there were many years of my life that were spent in oblivion, sadly. I struggled with mental health, I struggled with self-loathing, I struggled with addiction. Then I entered what I consider my recovery from all of this about four years ago, and I started trying to do new things and reclaim old things that I had loved. So, I started going out to things like poetry readings, open mics, and things like that.
My very first open mic I went to, I bravely got up and read two of my older poems I wrote for a class I had taken at UW. And after I got done reading, a journal editor came up to me and said, “You really should submit your poems for publication.”
I was astonished. That had been the last thing on my mind, but it certainly became the first.
Oh my goodness, so you’ve been writing, and submitting, and now we are here with The Good Truth. Now is your time. When did you start writing it? Where are you published?
So this collection spans some time. It includes one of the poems that I read at that open mic, which is also a poem I read for the Loud ‘N UnChained Black Theater Festival.
Which one is that?
“Heritage.” About two years ago, I started to notice that I write a lot about identity. Those things are all revolving around a central pillar. What does it mean to be me? A queer, Black, fat, woman with mental health and addiction. What does it mean to be who I am? And why does it matter that I am all those things?”
I had an English course at Madison College where my professor was also a published poet, and I asked her if she would do an honors project with me.
We designed the manuscript together, and picked and chose which poems [of mine] to be included. It went through a few iterations before it was finally chosen by Finishing Line Press.
It was a dream come true, and I am still not done. You know, there is still more I wanna say. So, I’m working on my second manuscript. But I am proud of the work I put out with The Good Truth. I think it speaks eloquently to where I was when I wrote the book.
You said that identity was a major role that shaped the book. Can you say more?
I identify as a woman of color, bisexual, queer. I identify as so many things, including as a mom. I think that’s a huge part of my identity. More than that, I identify as a mama—a mama is a person who mothers other people. I tend to be a community mama. I have that motherly energy. To scoop everyone up and create a community.
Who is your audience, or whom did you write the book for?
It would be easy to say I was writing the book for someone just like me, but I wrote the book for anyone who has ever felt othered. I think you can see through my poems that feeling of being the odd one out, feeling like not belonging, and then you can also see a transformation in the book to be accepting of who I am. Not the odd one out—I have a place—and I hope I am giving this to readers.
What are your top three poems in the book?
“Indelible” is one of the poems I wrote for my partner who passed away from overdose—that really pulled me out of a dark space, it was a pivotal turning point in my life.
“Schools;” I put a huge part of my childhood into that poem.
“The Good Truth” is a subtle, quiet poem. It really is a triumph. It’s a piece about finding peace.
To the writers taking a leap for publication, what would you say to them?
Don’t be afraid, just write. And take advantage of all the opportunities you can get to learn from other writers. Dive in headfirst.