My Interview with Poet/Author Talisha Harrison
author of “The Unconsciousness of an Ethiopian Princess College Days of Future Past”
eLPy: Were you a nerdy kid in school, a jock, popular kid, something else?
Talisha: I was an outsider, still am. I didn’t fit into any group nor did I want to. I got made fun of by all of those types and I also would talk to a few people from those groups as well.
eLPy: Do you have any educational background in poetry or writing?
Talisha: I took writing, literature, and English classes in college but I have a B.A. degree in Liberal Studies with a focus on Social and Behavioral Sciences with a minor in Health Sciences.
eLPy: How do you like to read: electronically, print, or both?
Talisha: Print. I hate reading electronically. It’s not the same, it doesn’t feel right, in my humble opinion.
How do you prefer to write: electronically, handwritten, both?
Both. I used to write mostly by hand, but now I mostly write electronically. Today I just hand wrote a poem after watching Don Jon and I haven’t done that in a while.
What brought you to write poetry?
My emotions and feelings. Growing up I had a hard time verbally expressing myself (I still do to some extent) so writing was always the way I did it. I started writing poetry in 9th grade and it’s just the best way to express myself.
What do you bring to the world of poetry & what does it bring to you?
Honestly I don’t know. I just bring my experiences and feelings about different subjects. Poetry brings me inspiration and a new way to think about things.
What kind of poetry do you write?
I can’t really describe it as far as a genre goes. My friends tell me that my poems are depressing but really good. So I guess I write depressing poetry.
You say your friends tell you your poetry is depressing. From what I’ve read in your first book, I wouldn’t describe it as such. Can you elaborate further on this, why does it qualify as depressing?
Oh I wasn’t talking about my first book. I’m referring to a lot my poems that I haven’t put together in a book yet. These are ones that I’ve shared with my friends or on WordPress. A lot of those have a different tone than the ones in my first book. Also a lot of poems in my second book Attack On Love are depressing since most of them deal with the ups and downs of love.
There are many days when I feel down and that comes across in a lot of the poems that I write.
Are you doing anything in particular to celebrate National Poetry Month?
Well I was trying to do NaPoWriMo it’s where you write a poem every day for the month.
How’s that going?
It’s going well. There were a few days when I didn’t write a poem so I had to play catch up. I’ve got 4 more days to go. Also when NaPoWriMo is done, I intend to release an e-book of all of my poems that I wrote for each day in April. The e-book will be available for free for a limited time and then .99 cents afterwards.
What are some of your poetry goals for 2014?
To publish another poetry book. I accomplished it.
Who are some of the poets you admire, follow, enjoy? Reading anybody right now?
Nicki Giovanni, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allen Poe, and Tupac Shakur. I’m currently reading Sylvia Plath’s Ariel and I recently finished reading Tupac’s The Rose That Grew From The Concrete.
If given the chance what would you ask a poet you look up to?
I would ask Tupac if he had any more poetry that he wrote and what inspired him to write his poems.
If you could write a collaborative piece with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
I don’t think I would want to. I like working alone as far as my poetry goes. It wouldn’t mesh well I don’t think.
Has your poetry been published in any publications?
Nah, my poetry’s not good enough be in anything but my own work. LOL
You say you haven’t been published elsewhere because you’re poems aren’t good enough. Why do you say this? What do you mean?
Honestly I don’t know. I’m used to rejection, it’s been a part of my life since the day I was born. I like my poems and I know there are folks out there who do but I guess my poetry is such that it doesn’t really fit certain spaces which is fine because I’m an outsider and I like to remain as such.
I’ve submitted to many places and received mostly rejections however I’ve learned that submitting is a matter of finding the right placement for the right piece. It is easy to allow rejection to discourage us but don’t we publish because we believe our work has a place even if it just hasn’t found its way there or been found?
I agree! That’s why I self-publish. I feel accomplished whenever I publish a book. However at the same time I’m aware that it’s not gonna be a book that everyone’s gonna buy-I guess I let that part become too important .
Is it a challenge for you to find your audience?
I think so. I’m not sure if a lot of folks out there even read or enjoy poetry. But I put it out there just in case and there are a few folks who do enjoy it.
Do you write other genres?
Yes, well I’m trying to. I’m in the process of writing my first novel, I, Darcy: Evolution. I also write comic book stories though I’m not very good at it.
Does writing one help the other?
While you’re writing or working on your writing to any extent are you more drawn to beverages or snacks?
Neither. I usually just have a glass of water handy and that’s it.
Do you work in silence or do you need some noise?
I like to work in both equally.
Do you strive for any sort of quotas (number of words or poems)? Daily, weekly, monthly? Number of words?
No. I just write whenever the mood strikes me.
What’s your process? For writing a poem that is? Is there a process?
If it’s a poem I just write it. Then I read over what I wrote and make any changes and then the poem’s done.
What’s your greatest (or most common) form of inspiration for writing poetry?
I use my personal experiences as well as my observations of my surroundings to write poems. I’ve had good and bad social interactions (mostly bad) of different kinds (racism, bullying, etc.), so you’ll see those experiences in my poetry. Music is also very important to me, it’s a part of my life. I listen to it on a daily basis, and I chant at synagogue at every Saturday. I enjoy film and books. I love the action and adventure, I enjoy the drama and suspense, the creativity and imagination. I’m also antisocial, have social phobia and anxiety and I’m somewhat depressed. So all of these things good and bad find a way into my poems.
In terms of your social phobias and depression, does writing help to relieve these at all?
A little bit. It’s nice to express yourself and get it down on paper but those feelings don’t go away.
Do you tend to write more or less during these times?
I write whenever the mood strikes me so I could be angry, sad, happy, or whatever . So the times I write is when I want to and it doesn’t matter what mood I’m in.
Would you encourage other people dealing with these issues to write? Perhaps even as a part of therapy?
Sure why not. It’s a positive way of expressing how you feel instead of a negative way such as cutting yourself (which I’ve done).
What satisfies you the most when writing a poem (or having written)?
Just getting out how I’m feeling on paper.
When you’ve finished writing a poem do you read it out loud to yourself (with fervent excitement!)?
No I don’t, I just read it silently to myself.
Do you leave it be and come back to it later? Go over it again and again right there? Or maybe every poem is different?
Usually I write the poem, look it over and fix anything that needs to be fixed and then post it.
You seem to be a fairly religious person, how does religion influence your poetry?
It doesn’t. I just write how I feel and it has no bearing on my religious beliefs. I’ve become more cynical of religion but I still believe in God just more cynical of stuff.
How does poetry make you think about things in a new way?
I look at things from all sorts of angles instead of just one.
When you prepare a submission for publication what do you do? What do you look for and how do you decide your submissions are good to go? What tips would you offer other poets submitting their work?
I just look at what the requirements are and then I try to send in my best work. I’m not one to give tips since I haven’t had anything of mine accepted, LOL. I would just say to keep trying and don’t give up.
Do you have any books out, full or chapbook?
I’ve got three books out right now. Two are poetry and are part of a series. They are: The Unconsciousness of an Ethiopian Princess College Days of Future Past and The Unconsciousness Of An Ethiopian Princess: Attack On Love.
I also have a collection of short stories titled Where My Imagination Takes Me: A Collection of Short Stories And Flash Fiction. You can find out where to get a copy here.
What was the most difficult part of preparing/publishing a book?
Getting the formatting right whether it’s for CreateSpace or Smashwords.
What are you doing in terms of marketing? Do you use Social Networking?
I use all the social networks I have and also word of mouth. I try to do e-book giveaways but no one’s really interested.
You said “but no one’s really interested”, do you say this from a point of frustration in terms of marketing or…where’s this coming from?
Well sorta. Whenever I do e-book giveaways no one enters. The last time I did one, I only got 2 entries from the same person. But that’s life.
Do you find you have to be even more creative, beyond the creativity you put in as a writer, in order to market your work and find your niche so to speak?
I try to be but I don’t worry about it too much.
What is your preferred method of networking & why?
I’ll do any form for the most part. I like to use email, blogging, etc. because I can express myself better if I write.
What’s your favorite poem of your own? Which book is your favorite? Care to share why?
I don’t really have any favorites or a favorite book, I like all my stuff equally. But one poem that was fun to write was No Attachments. It’s featured in my second book Attack On Love.
Have you done any readings before?
Yes at my job they have Tuesday Voices and it’s where anyone in the community can come and read poems of their own or by someone else.
What’s that experience like for you?
It’s a little nerve racking but it’s fun to do.
Can you share a couple of your favorite lines/verses from your poetry, new or old?
I’ll do better, I’ll share a poem. It’s the No Attachments poem I mentioned earlier.
That’s what the Jedi say
And now I see why
When you make attachments
You create emotions
When you create emotions
They cloud your judgement
When they cloud your
You make decisions based
on your emotions
When you make decisions
based on your emotions
You make bad ones
When you make bad decisions
You become Anakin Skywalker
When you become Anakin Skywalker
You fall to the dark side of the force
When you fall to the dark side of the force
When you fall to the dark side of the force
You get your ass soundly
Kicked by your master
When you get your ass soundly
Kicked by your master
You become Darth Vader
When you become Darth Vader
You get to use force lightning and force choke
To express your frustrations
Which isn’t half bad
After you’ve done all of that
You get reminded by a Luke Skywalker
That there’s still good out there
When you get reminded by Skywalker
About all the good out there
You destroy the Emperor
When you destroy the Emperor
You come back to the light side of
When you come back to
The light side of the force
The whole damn cycle starts all over again.
And that’s why
You shouldn’t make
Your first book of poetry was published in 2006 at your then college’s print shop, right? What made you publish back then?
I published it because I was graduating from college that year with my B.A. in Liberal Studies.
In preparing your book how did you decide on the poems to include? Their order?
I decide on what the theme of the book will be and then as I start putting the book together I figure out the order.
What is your book’s purpose?
The purpose is to share my experiences, feelings, emotions with others.
Tell me about your title, The Unconsciousness of An Ethiopian Princess. What’s this mean to you, the book, to the poems?
Well my name means Ethiopian Princess and the unconsciousness part is about my mind and the feelings that I have. So it’s basically me expressing how I feel about different things the best way I know how, in my writing-poetry.
Did you make many changes to your new self-published edition of The Unconsciousness of an Ethiopian Princess College Days of Future Past?
I just added a new poem (On Course II) and changed the thank yous and dedications because I had previously thanked a lot of people who didn’t support me and weren’t friends so I took them out of the book. Also I had changed my religious beliefs so that needed to be changed in the book as well.
How do you feel about the process now from what it was then?
It’s been easier because now there are free resources to help publish your writings. And I didn’t have to worry about picking which poems to include and which ones not to. It was more fun.
Does the process of writing your thoughts, feelings, and experiences change you over time? What about publishing them for all the world to read?
If anything, I think it helps me to not be afraid or ashamed of who I am. I also learn from all the things-good, bad, ugly, and horrible-that I’ve gone through.
I think publishing them for any who read it is beneficial because readers can relate to what I write.
What’s it feel like, having your poems out in the world for all and anyone to read?
It’s nice, hopefully people like and enjoy what they read. Hopefully it can be relatable or they’re introduced to a new point of view.
I also feel accomplished.
How has this affected you as a writer?
It hasn’t really affected me, I’m happy to have my work out there. I guess I feel accomplished.
Do you see yourself any differently?
Some people don’t like to call themselves a writer until they’re published. Do you agree?
You’re a writer whether or not you’re published. I think when you get published you would be an author so then there’s that distinction.
Would you change anything about what you wrote in those early years?
No, I regret nothing.
In your poem, “Mr. Poe”, you share with the reader your thoughts and feelings learning he was prejudiced. Tell us more about that. Were you in class when you learned this? How do you feel now? Did you come to terms with this? Bury him or love him still?
I think I was in creative writing class. I don’t care, I can’t change how he felt. I still enjoy his poems and feel sorry for him that he felt that way.
Looking back on college, how do you feel about it now?
College was way better than high school. I felt I could be myself even more and though I had a few bad experiences I still enjoyed that part of my life. I learned a lot of new things both exciting and terrifying.
In your last two poems, “On Course” & “On Course Part II” your focus has naturally changed, you’re done with school. Do you remember what it was like to write them, how you felt? Tell us a little more about these as they do seem to be the culmination and yet they’re a whole new set of reflections. Of course they relate to the whole picture, but they are so much their own thing, the beginning to the next, where are you on this journey?
I don’t remember exactly how I felt. I guess I felt accomplished and I had learned much from my journey and that I’m still learning. I guess the poems are the hope that I have that’s kinda dwindling at the moment.
I don’t really know where I am. I guess I’m loss. I’m at point in my life where I’m frustrated and angry at a lot of things. I don’t feel like I’ve done much or accomplished much and I don’t feel like I have a lot of support. I feel like I’ve met or interacted with too many people who are just not really supportive or helpful and very cruel.
This is such a depressing answer.
What’s your favorite poem or set of poems in your first collection?
I liked Chemistry because it’s kinda tongue in cheek about different topics. Mr. Poe is also a favorite, as well as the On Course poems.
What did/does this mean to you?
The poems or the collection? If the collection it’s my baby since it’s the first work of mine to be published so I’m proud of it. It’s cool to have something that you’ve worked on out in the world for people to enjoy or hate.
What did you do right? What would you change?
With assistance from my teacher Dr. Stephen Caldwell Wright, I put the poems in an order that moves smoothly. I would (and did) change the thank you and dedications. As I said earlier I thanked the wrong people and also I had thanked the wrong god too so I changed that.
Are you glad you self-published? Will you continue to do so?
Yes, it’s great to be in charge of the creative process. I will definitely continue to self-publish my poetry. I would like to query an agent for my novel but if not I’ll self-publish it as well. I just want my work out there for the world to see.
What’s been the most rewarding part of self-publishing? The most challenging?
Just having my stuff out there. Wondering if anyone is reading it and enjoying it. If you’ve read any of my books please write a review so I can know what you thought!
What’s your advice, tips, or suggestions for new poets?
Write how you feel.
How has poetry changed you?
It’s helped me express myself better.
What, if anything, do you wish you could add, change, or take from your poetry career thus far?
Honestly nothing. I’m just glad to have my poems out in the world.
Has writing poetry opened you up to more forms of creativity? Expanded your horizons maybe?
I guess so. It makes me see that there aren’t any limits to what I can do and not to set any limits.
Are you working on any new collections, poetry & otherwise?
Not at the moment. I have one book I’ll do for The Unconsciousness of an Ethiopian Princess but I’m not working on it right now.
You finished this collection with a sampling of a novel you’re working on. What’s this about? What draws you to this genre?
The book is called I, Darcy: Evolution, and it’s an idea that I’ve had and it’s still a work in progress. I hope to finish the story this year and get it edited and ready to publish next year. Here’s the synopsis:
If you think being a teenager in today’s world is hard, you haven’t met Darcy Monroe. She’s a smart and cynical sixteen year old living in a post apocalyptic world where the undead who are called zonbi have evolved to the point that they now live along side the living in an unstable truce. In addition, a new breed of zonbi have come into existence. Called Umare, these beings were born from a human mother and an infected father who had not yet completely turned. Darcy is one of them and she’s been charged with the murder of a human. Not only will she’ll have to prove her innocence, but she will have to prove that zonbi population has more in common with the living than they realize.
I’m a Walking Dead Fan and I also like things that are dark, sad, depressing, scary and hopeful. I know that the zombie genre has been done to death now but I feel that I have a different take on it. I hope that people will enjoy it.
Okay, so after all that prodding, how about some more? Tell us about your latest works. You’ve published a new collection of stories, yes? So go on, tell us about it!
I have a new collection of poetry called The Unconsciousness Of An Ethiopian Princess: Attack On Love. And I also have a collection of short stories titled Where My Imagination Takes Me: A Collection of Short Stories And Flash Fiction. You can find out where to get a copy here.
How does your new collection follow-up the first? How do they relate?
Well it doesn’t really. It’s about my life experience but in a different subject love. Also there’s 50 or more poems in this collection, and they’re more brutally honest.
Why did you choose to create a series of collections instead of stand-alones?
I think they are both. They’re part of a collection, yet they’re stand-alones since they’re on different subjects.
Why Attack on Love?
Well I got inspired by Attack On Titan. It’s an a manga/anime and it’s so depressing yet hopeful. And that’s how my experience with love has been so far.
The original concept for the cover was to have a muscular Titan hand squeezing a life sized human heart with blood dripping from it into a puddle below. This older guy who I went on two dates with and was talking to at the time happened to be an artist and he was gonna do it for me for free. Alas he lied and stopped communicating with me so I had to settle for a picture of a life-sized human heart for the cover instead.
See I have a depressing story for a depressing book.
Did you feel better equipped in writing this after having published the first?
Yeah, I felt more ready and knowledgeable about using the publishing tools and also how I wanted to organize the book. I had the original idea of the cover as well as the title in my mind before I even began to collect the poems.
What do your poetry collections mean to you?
They’re special to me. They’re kinda like a personal diary that I’m allowing the world to read. I let you into my mind but you’re not all the way in.
What else are you working on? Why this?
Nothing else just the novel and eventually the third and final book for my poetry series.
What a combination of interests, comics & sci-fi & poetry! Why these? Where do comics come in for you? What’s it like being a woman in this field, I know there’s a lot of stigma.
I’ve loved comics since I was a kid. I was introduced to comics by watching a few kids play the X-Men arcade game during summer camp. And it grew as I watched animated shows such as X-men, Batman The Animated Series, and Spider-Man.
It wasn’t till a few years ago that I got more into comics when I began to write for Why Not Indie (which isn’t around anymore :() and I wrote my first comic book story for Womanthology. It grew with me writing for other sites. But my love for comics has diminished unfortunately due to things I’ve personally experience and things that I’ve read about. I’m no longer an avid fan, I’m just a person who happens to like comics and geek stuff.
Does writing in these different genres help you express different parts of your personality?
Writing comics helps me express my adventurous side. I’m able to things that I’ve wanted or wished I could do. I’m still working on learning how to write comic book stories. I think I’m better at writing short stuff (1-4 pages worth) instead of longer material. But I’m not giving up.
Writing poetry helps me express my inner thoughts, worries and feelings.
It’s the same with writing other genres.
How do they translate over to each other, or relate to each other? Or don’t they at all?
I think they melt together in one pot and they relate to each other on different levels. I wrote a poem titled Necrocalia and it’s based off a comic book idea I have (which I’m still trying to get published, one day it will be).
It’s basically the two main characters’ thoughts on how they view death (which surrounds them in the world or I should say galaxy that they exist in). One’s more optimistic while the other isn’t but then they come to a conclusion.
What else do you want us to know about you, the poet?
I’m a person who expresses herself best through her writing. If you want to get to know me, one of the best ways is to read my poetry.
What do you want people to remember about you as a poet?
That I wasn’t afraid to put myself out there despite the varying outcomes. I guess that I put myself out there for the world to see and I did my best.
And about your writings?
My experiences, emotions, and feelings.
Got a website? Plug it!
Yes here: http://lavirinokiuskribas.wordpress.com/
Thanks to everyone who follow my weird musings.
Thank you for opening up and sharing with us. It’s nice to get to know some other poets/writers.
So what’d think? Please feel free to share your thoughts, feellings, and whatever else about this interview with Talisha Harrison, author of The Unconsciousness of an Ethiopian Princess College Days of Future Past, The Unconsciousness of an Ethiopian Princess Attack on Love, & Where My Imagination Takes me: A Collection of Short Stories and Flash Fiction.
To learn more about Talisha and her work visit her website at: http://lavirinokiuskribas.wordpress.com/
You can also pick up her books on Amazon
Yesterday we learned of Loretta Livingstone, tomorrow will feature Nancy Bevilaqua.