Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Interview with Poet Petula Caesar

1. What was the first poem that inspired you?

My dad used to recite poetry to me when I was a baby and a young girl, so the first poem I ever remember hearing inspired me. It is called "The Face On The Barroom Floor" by Hugh Antoine D'Arcy. It's a story poem about a dirty, ragged drunk in a bar who is a famous talented artist who has been driven to drink by the woman he loves who has left him. He tells his story to the bar patrons there laughing at him and draws her face there on the floor. Then he drops dead on top of the picture. Now that I think about it I wonder why my dad was reciting this kind of poem to me…LOL! The other poem I was inspired by Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken". I also love ee cummings "i carry my heart with you".

2. Who is your favorite poet/s? Why?

I'm pretty "old school" in my poetic tastes. I love Emily Dickinson, ee cummings, Poe, Rumi. There are more modern poets that I love as well, but I have always gravitated towards the classics. I love the way they use language; it is really artful and seems so effortless.

3. If you could have a conversation with a poet, who would it be? What 2 questions would you like to ask them?

I'm not sure what I would ask but I would love to have a conversation with Ntozake Shange, the woman who wrote "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf". Mainly because that work in particular is one that I think really embodies so much of what I ultimately want my work to be…I love the way she combines the beautiful and artful and creative and vulgar and raw and real all at the same time.

4. What does poetry mean to you?

It means writing that can exist just for its own sake. It doesn't have to have a purpose, or a meaning that you get, or make sense, or even have order. It exists primarily just to exist, and anything else it accomplishes is just extra beauty.

5. What type of poetry do you write?

I think because I write short stories, my poems tend to be story poems. I have a very peculiar rhyme scheme and meter that exists in my head that I write to and because I love music I think my poems tend to have a certain musical rhythm to them. I write very lyrical poetry, I put a lot of work into making sure I write with a certain amount of grace, no matter what the topic.

6. What do you think are the basic ingredients of a poem?

The basic ingredients for me are truthful emotion and great phrasing. One of the things I love about poetry is what makes it beautiful is its honesty. And it doesn't matter what you're being honest about. In poetry, you can be honest about some really ugly things, and if your truth shines through, the poem is beautiful.

7. What is your creative process like, atmosphere, etc?

I'm still trying to figure that out. It's very random. Often the first line of my poems, or the ideas for them come from some unrelated comment I'll hear someone make that just connects to something inside me. Then it just latches on to something in my brain, and it starts to grow from there, and I'll start writing. As far as atmosphere goes, I like to write late at night. As long as it's dark outside I'm good.

8. What is your definition of creativity?

Creativity is when you find interesting, unique, special ways to do something. Creativity is something that you can apply, and should apply to everything you do. The most mundane tasks can be fun if you find creative ways to do them.

9. On a typical day, how do you record your thoughts?

I'm not really that deep…LOL! I don't really record my thoughts formally on a regular basis. I have always been told I should, and I am trying to get in the habit of blogging and journaling regularly, but honestly, my thoughts often aren't really worth recording. They are really weird and are only significant to my close circle of friends. But when I do record my thoughts, it is usually by doing very random essay writing.

10. What inspired you to publish your poetry?

Money! I had no real interest in publishing my poetry, plus you get told very early when you become a professional writer that there is no market for poetry, especially on the page. But I was actually approached by a literary journal about publishing two of my works about ten years ago, and I did. They paid me $50 per poem, which is a LOT for a poem! So for a while I was pretty good at getting my work in online and print journals. My next published work will probably be some kind of poetry collection.

11. You're not only a poet but a spoken word/performance artist, what influenced you to perform?

Well, mainly because I got tired of not seeing me onstage. I got tired of not hearing my voice from the poets. It still irks me at how often people with "ordinary" voices don't get onstage, and its primarily because they feel they have to be like the other poets they see onstage, and when they aren't, they don't even try. I got up there because I wasn't like any of the others. One thing I hate most about spoken word is that while more often than not there are more women in the audience than men, there are mostly men onstage. And when I see women onstage, they generally tend to follow one of a few "formulas" that female performances poets tend to follow – "super green hippies", "mother Earth types", the "militant revolutionaries", the "angry man bashers", "the super philosophers", the "hyper-feminists", the "weird eclectics", etc. And the women who didn't fall into these categories always seemed to have such overly apologetic voices. They don't write strong. Whenever they wrote about things they consider bad, they always seem to be explaining and justifying. They seem to be so concerned with what people will think of them, so their writing and poetry never lets go, never flies. They never want to just be bad and wrong and dirty. I got tired of not hearing the voice of the woman who thinks bad things, says wrong things, who gets angry and is hateful and hurtful at times, who cusses and fucks and drinks and talks shit who still manages to have the sensitivity to feel and love and hurt and heal. Women feel so much pressure to be perfect, and it's killing us in so many ways. I want women to be powerfully flawed and unashamed of it, because that is the only way growth happens. That is what I hope to bring to performing – a powerfully flawed woman who is still blessed in her mess and will let you witness her evolution so you can appreciate your own.

12. In addition to performing you added recording your poetry to music to your resume. How did this come about?

By accident. I had just started working on my second collection of erotic poetry and short stories, and I was thinking of recording a few of the pieces to go with the book as a promotional CD. I wasn't planning to sell it. So I went to Mo-Rece of Stinkiface Music, who is one of the best producers around, especially when it comes to spoken word. I told him I wanted to do this promo CD thing of a couple of poems and a story or two, and he said "well, why don't you just record a CD and sell it?" At the time I thought it was just crazy. But we got to looking at my poems and we talked about it and in February 2008 I started working on my very first recordings, which eventually became my first CD, "The Eargasm".

13. The genre of poetry that you write is sometimes looked at in a negative light, some may even relate it to pornography or smut. How do you address these types of views?

Believe it or not, I am more sensitive than most to the fact that many people have issues with what I do. For example, when someone wants to book me for a performance, I make sure they are extremely clear about what I do, and that for the most part I don't censor my performances. I have been invited to perform at events and I get there and there are minors there, and I don't perform in front of minors, ever. But as far as addressing those views goes, I mean, honestly, I can't. I really don't try to convince people that what I do isn't as bad as they think. Because for some people it is. I don't have a problem with that, as long as in return they respect the fact that others feel differently. I have found respect for other people's feelings about my erotica has done more to address their issues with it than anything – the fact that I'm not trying to push it down their throat or make them accept it.

14. With a resume that includes being an accomplished journalist how do you maintain the balance of your two very different writing careers?

Well, in many respects there aren't any differences. Whether its journalism or poetry, it's all about telling a story, sharing with your reader a set of feelings, emotions, and circumstances. The difference is that in journalism you convey those things by presenting and framing facts, information, details. You attempt to make things clear. In poetry, you often do those same things by NOT presenting details. You often don't make things clear, you make them fuzzy. But writing is writing for me. I can pretty much write anything.

15. What words of wisdom would you give an aspiring poet/writer?


Well, first of all I would say that if you are planning a career as a writer, you are going to have to spend some time writing FOR FREE. That's just the nature of this business. There are a million writers out there, and at least some of them are better writers than you, more experienced than you, better trained and better prepared than you. So you have to be prepared to be so committed to writing that you'll do it for nothing for a time. For the poets, I would say that you should not get so caught up in your personal agenda that you aren't effective artistically. Way too many poets see themselves as these super-deep, highly reflective individuals with all these important things to say that people just MUST listen to, and something in wrong with people if they don't want to listen. Keep it simple. Share yourself, your thoughts, your words, your way of writing and being, and then stretch all those things as much as you can. If you do that, you'll be okay.

16. If you had to suggest one book that you have read in your life that was a vital tool, what would it be?

I don't know if there is any one book I would suggest. I have gotten different things out of different books at different times. Mostly I would suggest people try to read a book that is something that they wouldn't normally read, that broadens their horizons. For example, I'm not a huge science fiction fan, but I've made it a point to start reading some Octavia Butler books. And I have to say I love them, even though normally you couldn't pay me to go near sci-fi. But I am all about a person stretching themselves, so I'd say read that book that you've always said you'd never read.

Interesting tidbits about Petula….

17. If your life had a theme song what would it be?

Wow! Only one song? That theme song would change from day to day but overall I'd go with "I Did It My Way".

18. What is currently in heavy rotation in your ipod/mp3 player/cd player?

I'm getting into Erykah Badu's CD real heavy right now. Other than that I'm in the process of recording my next project and I'm collaborating with some other artists as well, so those tracks are what I'm listening to a lot now also. The two tracks in heaviest rotation are "Wordz", which is going to be the first track on my next recorded project, and "The Last Time", which is a duet with Janice B., another artist on the music label I am on. I do some serious poetry on that track, can't wait for people to hear it!

19. What is one of life simple pleasures that you find to very sensual/erotic?

Cooking and eating. I love sharing meals with people I care about – friends, lovers, my significant other, or whoever. The whole process brings a really great energy that I love. I love to go out to a restaurant, sit across from someone and just eat and talk and smile. I love to watch people chew, to watch their jaws move up and down as they eat. EI love the whole process of sharing sustenance.

20. What is one item that you never leave the house without that makes you feel sexy/sensual?

I make sure I smell good and carry my perfume or body oils or whatever with me. And I always make sure its not overpowering, but when he's close to me he can smell it.

21. Share with our readers an item that you suggest every woman have in there adult toy chest.

You know, the funny thing is that I'm really not that into toys! I mean I have a few, but I hardly ever use them. I like to save my sexual energy for my significant other for the most part, and the toys I have I more often use with him than alone. I do think a vibrating bullet is indispensible. In my opinion, bigger isn't better in my opinion when it comes to those things. I once brought a little tiny vibrating bullet that you're actually supposed to use on your tongue for oral stimulation, and that little thing worked on me better than the bigger ones. I think because it really could…focus…on the spot I wanted it to!

Are there any encouraging words of wisdom or favorite quote you would like to leave with our readers?

"Don't f*** it up." --RuPaul

1 comment:

Yakini said...

Good interview!

I also love Robert Frost's "Road Not Taken." That was one of the first poems that inspired me as well.