We are thrilled to bring back one of our favorite types of posts, the Feature Spotlight. We ask featured artists some questions that allow us to get to know them better, so that we know what to look forward to. This time around, we’re shining the light on the phenomenally talented Sasha Banks, who will be featuring on Friday, April 18, 2014.
- Where are you from?
Ohio, by way of Alaska, by way of Germany, by way of California.
- How would you describe your poetry for someone if they have never seen or heard you before?
All the things I’ve written about are past events that are specific to me as a woman, and a black woman—my poems/poetry is me revisiting those moments and using the words I didn’t have then, to speak on them in the now.
- What was your first experience with poetry? What poems or poets do you remember most?
My first experience with poetry was actually Maya Angelou; I had to do a report on her, in 7th grade. Then I came across Def Poetry, right around that same time, and I distinctly remember watching Mos Def, Suheir Hammad, and Mayda Del Valle. I wanted to do that; I wanted my poetry to matter enough to be on a stage and read in front of people.
- Who or what influences your poetry?
I love language. I speak Spanish, as well, and when I first started learning the language, I was really in love with its sentence structure. It’s very poetic, to me. I’d say that’s what really influences my poetry—all the ways that exist to say one thing or communicate one feeling. I also like to study the etymology of words and phrases, so…there’s that.
- What was the first poem you ever wrote? How did you feel about it?
Ha! No clue.
- What made you first realize you wanted to pursue poetry?
Earlier I mentioned Def Poetry being the thing that sparked the idea that my writing could be important to more than just me. But I think the actual want to actively pursue poetry was really a result of sharing work with people in my community, locally and elsewhere, and getting an overwhelming response.
- How did you get involved with poetry?
The poetry scene that I’m a part of now? A friend of mine told me about Natty Roots, in Arlington, and I went one time and never stopped.
- What can people expect to see at a live performance?
Well, no fireworks or backup dancers. People can expect to hear honest work.
- If you had to describe your poetry in three or four words, what would you call it?
Lived. Defiant. Earnest. Real.
- What is most of your poetry about? (What specific themes do you cover?)
A lot of the work is really centered around womanhood, and I think recently, I’m speaking more from distinct places in black womanhood.
- How long have you been writing and performing poetry?
I’ve been writing since I was 7 (poetry since I was about 9). I’ve only been performing poetry for the last year.
- What did you think your “biggest break” or “greatest opportunity” has been so far with poetry?
Making it to NPS Final Stage in 2013, as a Golden Poem Award Showcase performer was definitely my biggest “break,” without a doubt.
- What does your family think of your poetry and do they support you?
My father is a military man, so…initially he wasn’t really on board. He really wanted me to join the air force. Lmao. But I think his scope of what poetry had/has the capacity to be was just narrow, until I started bringing more of it into his space, through what was happening in my life. He’s more supportive, now. My mom’s always excited and trying to tell me what I should write about next. I love it.
- What do you do when you’re not doing poetry?
Watching Grey’s Anatomy; scouring the earth for 90’s hip hop on wax; crocheting; watching reruns of Living Single and the Cosby Show; flirting with the Arabic language (I want to learn Arabic sooooo bad); EATING.
- Which poem or poems do you love to perform the most and why?
That’s hard to say. It changes every few months. Right now, I’m in love with a sestina I wrote, and that’s one I’ve been reading a lot, lately. I actually just performed that for Patricia Smith!
- Where would you like to see yourself within the next 3 to 5 years as an artist?
Writing, traveling, performing, and teaching poetry in places beyond the US. I really see myself becoming more self-assured and finally able to understand myself, artistically. I think, then I’d be able to really dig into other aspects of poetry. It’s a process.
- What do you do to get ready for a show?
Panic. Pray. Panic. Repeat.
- What is your wildest poet/poetry story?
- What is the furthest show from home that you have done?
My first show was at Dartmouth, in New Hampshire. So far, that’s been the farthest.
- If you could perform with anyone in the world, either dead or alive, who would it be? Why?
Patricia Smith because she reads on page, and that’s important in more ways than I can really explain. AND! Toni Morrison, because she’s a badass, and was one of the first black women writers to address more of the unspoken experiences of black womanhood. Both of these women are also my patron saints. Just sayin.
- How do you think you would be remembered by people if something were to suddenly happen to you?
I don’t know. I think people would remember the way I push my glasses up when slide down my nose. And maybe the way I hate erotic poems. lmao I don’t know.
- As an artist, is there anything special you hope to be able to accomplish?
I want to create a non-profit/school curriculum cross-pollination of some sort. It’s complicated and hard to explain haha. But that’s a long-term goal.
- How has your poetry evolved from your first poem to one of your recent poems?
I’m speaking more about things I’ve never really talked about; revisiting and reexamining really big and formative experiences, of which, I’ve never really understood the gravity until now. The language I have to write about those experiences is not the language I had, back when I was writing my first pieces.
- What do you attribute to your “drive as an artist”?
Just my belief in the power and value of art. I think living artistically and making art a priority in my life, as someone who lives in the western world, is a real act of defiance or rebellion; it disrupts the standard and the expectation. That’s hella motivating, to me.
- As an artist how would you define success?
I’m still trying to figure that out, but I think the first step in the direction of success is not trying to attain someone else’s kind of success—having your own is so important in curbing that. I think paying attention to what feeling you love most about what you do, paying attention to what you do that makes you feel like you’re engaging all your best selves and best qualities, and paying attention to what you always say “yes” and “no” to are all ways to narrow what your idea of success is, at least, grounded in.
- What projects or products do you have or that are in the works?
I’ve just started working on a book manuscript, so there’s a lot of drafting and researching going on.
- Do you have any video links where people can see you?
Turn | TGS 2013
Pretty Girl Mouth | TGS 2013
- Is there anyone special you would like to thank for helping you become who you are as an artist?
I have so many supporters in the local and national poetry scene. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. And again.
Complete the following sentences.
- Without poetry, I would be:
- Poetry is:
the hardest art.
- My poetry makes me feel:
nervous about whether or not I’m being heard.
- I write poetry because:
that’s how I orient myself.
- Support poetry because:
it’s the one of the few genuine ways to keep history—through storytelling.
See Sasha Banks, the WordSpace Third Fridays at Dallas Poetry Slam feature, on Friday, April 18, 2014.