lunes, 4 de mayo de 2015

Carla Christopher, The Priestess, Poet Laureate of York, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

She is open, engaging and provokes reflection in her writing and in the empathy which emanates from her deep felt convictions. Her name is Carla Cristopher, although poets know her as “The Priestess.” Carla is Poet Laureate for York Pennsylvania and nominated for the Torch of Global Enlightenment Awards. Poetry flows from her being as in these lines from “I will come for you:”
“In dreaming landscape
built and colored with impossibility,
in waking fantasy
thrumming with anticipated escape,
there find me…”

 Upon hearing her recite some of her poem, we invited Carla to chat about her vision of art, politics and life.
--How did poetry come into your life?
--I wrote my first poem for the Reflections contest at my elementary school in central Michigan. The moon was God's teardrop falling into the ocean. I loved to read and I loved words from early on because I had a mother who was the same way. Once I started writing poetry and music and stories, I just never stopped. It was fantasy, possibility and a whole other way of looking at the world. I liked how the world looked through the lense of what could be.
--Poetry is a wonderful means of expression. What is it for you?
--Poetry began as a way to self-discovery. To develop my own possibilities. It then became a way to work through and to understand my feelings and emotions and to process experiences. I then began to work through other's experiences and the connections I felt with family, friends and those who I met. Stories that I heard. Now, I write almost entirely social justice poetry. I write to move, I write to move people. To preserve the history of experience and emotion. To use the power of words to help other people know they are not alone and that their experiences and stories have value.
--What are the main issues which appear in your poetry?
--The main issues that I write about are the ones that have become horrifyingly common in my audiences and that have provoked the most powerful and moving responses from audience members. Domestic violence, sexual assault, racial justice, self-acceptance, equality, the healing powers of love and nature. I write the stories of people.
--Being named poet laureate certainly must have come as a gratifying surprise.
--I was incredibly honored to be named Poet Laureate. The process in York is quite exhaustive. You already have to be teaching, running at least one venue, be published, teach a sample lesson, write customized poetry and perform a mini-show as well as complete an interview before a panel of local art community authorities and even the mayor. The night of my final interview I was so nervous I almost didn’t go. That’s what I love about York, though. It’s a large enough city to have culture, diversity and possibility but it is a small enough town to give opportunity and the ability to make change that would not otherwise be possible.
--How do you go about writing? Are you method oriented, as Edgar A. Poe was or are you more spontaneous?
--When I write deliberately and personally, I prefer a long chunk of time and a peaceful, quiet place. I put on some music with a slower, melodic pace. Jazz, folk, trance, classical... Then I pull out ideas that I wrote spontaneously on napkins, in my phone etc and develop them, play with them and let them come. Other times I will write straight into my cell phone, or on a notebook page, my cell phone, or on a notebook page or into my computer while at a poetry reading or a concert or even at a red light. When it flows, it flows. I used to be much more at the mercy of inspiration, although I have always written well in workshops and writing classes when I could be surrounded by other creatives and reading the great work of other poets. Then I learned about the Beat poets and spent six months only performing poetry that I had written on the spot, about that moment and informed by that moment. The discipline of writing on the spot, of using my environment for inspiration, ensured that I almost never suffer from writer's block! It was a poetic life, a changing experiment.
          --Would you say that there is a particular poetic sense for the Afro-American poets?
          --Every African-American poet is of course different, but in general, the African-American community of artists has made a point to be informed by emotion and by current events and sensibilities as much as by form and tradition. There is a spontaneous, creative and responsive nature to African-American poetry and minority based on art in general that comes from a legacy of survival and triumph that is ever present, even in our poems of love and nature.
          -- Do the rhythms of soul, jazz and expressions of Afro-American culture influence your writing?

          --In terms of rhythm, I am more informed by the classical and traditional music I grew up singing as a choral performer or moving to as a dancer. I have also always been fascinated by the passionate pulse of the music and movement of Indian, Middle Eastern and North and West African music and percussion. The poets of the Harlem Renaissance are of writing. The mythology and the spirituality of different cultures are also a frequent themes and sources of inspiration. The ideas of struggle, caring, community, passion, spontaneity, responsiveness and triumph that are the result of my moving through the world as an African-American however, are very much a part of my writing. It just might be expressed differently from how the same reality inspires other artists of color from different regions or tastes.
        --Recent events seem to indicate that the poison of racism continues? What do you think?
--Not only does the poison of racism, classism, sexism, ageism and other prejudice still exist, but as the divide between those in power and those who are the victims of institutionalized inequality grows, hopelessness will continue to corrode and rage will continue to erupt within our communities. Poets and artists will continue to be the recorders of these emotions and the heralds who call to action those needing inspiration to fight back, to fight against.
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Carla has been featured on several recordings and in multiple anthologies and publications including Pennessence, Sylvan, The York Dispatch, The York Daily Record, The Hanover Sun and Central PA Magazine. She is the author of three full-length collections of poetry; Song (Columbia University Press, 2000), Baby, Read Me Something with Rhythm (PoemSugar Press, 2011) and Out Loud (PoemSugar Press, 2015) and released a full-length CD of poetry; We Be Poeting  and the ep Of Water Born with the spoken word ensemble, Poetic Voices, on SoulThief Records (2015). Carla has won numerous awards for her work, including multiple citations from the National Federation of Poetry Societies and the Pennsylvania Poetry Society in 2011 and a 1st Place and the Grand Prize 1st Place in the Pennsylvania Poetry Society 2014 competition.

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