Welcome to this edition of 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 phenomenal Fatima, the WordSpace Third Fridays at Dallas Poetry Slam feature for Friday, November 21, 2014.
- Where are you from?
I was born in Miami, FL
- How did you get your name (if a stage name is used)?
I use my given name because I am not separate from what I do on the page or on stage. As a kid, I got teased for my name and all the weight it carried. I wanted to be Sarah or Jessica or Christina. Today, I only want to be Fatima. I think that’s big.
- How would you describe your poetry for someone if they have never seen or heard you before?
Adult bedtime stories. The kind that keep you up at night because the monster was too real.
- What was your first experience with poetry? What poems or poets do you remember most?
In fourth grade I we learned about limericks. I was hooked. My first poems were about UFOs and bee stings. The next year my stepdad surprised me with my first Shel Silverstein collection, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and then I started junior high reading William Blake. To this day, the only poem by someone else I have memorized is The Tyger.
- Who or what influences your poetry?
A lot of my poems are, or at least begin, as retellings of dreams I had the night before. I believe that unseen forces influence our lives, and they definitely influence my poetry.
- What was the first poem you ever wrote? How did you feel about it?
The first poem I wrote as a real pouring of feelings was Death’s Serenade. It was a persona piece spoken in the voice of Death to an older woman on her deathbed. He recounted her major moments in life with great compassion and welcomed her into his arms. I was thirteen.
- What made you first realize you wanted to pursue poetry?
For the longest time poetry was something between myself and my notebook. I started posting it on a blog and sharing it in public places and got really positive responses. It’s gone from a hobby before bed to a major part of my life.
- How did you get involved with poetry?
I friended one of my coworkers and saw him post a poem a day from his blog. I thought, “I write a poem every day, too, why don’t I do that?” From there, he introduced me to some amazing people and doors just started opening. He went from coworker to mentor and now I’m able to build important relationships on my own and seek out the opportunities that make life beautiful.
- What can people expect to see at a live performance?
Tears. A part of me that is usually not seen by others in daily life.
- If you had to describe your poetry in three or four words, what would you call it?
- What is most of your poetry about? (What specific themes do you cover?)
Family, motherhood, spirituality, and current events.
- How long have you been writing and performing poetry?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I’ve only been performing for about two years.
- What did you think your “biggest break” or “greatest opportunity” has been so far with poetry?
Poetry made me a teacher. I love children, and the Writer’s Garret has made my life so much more fulfilling. Watching kids mull over just the right word and then eagerly share some REAL stuff they didn’t wake up intending to express, there’s nothing like that. There’s nothing like watching kids pat each other on the shoulder as a sign of ::I see you, I’m here for you::
- What do you feel distinguishes you from other poets?
I have no limits. I feel what I feel unapologetically. I write for myself as a release; I’m not here to please an audience or make the crowd happy. I’m here so you can feel all the feelings with me and know me better.
- What does your family think of your poetry and do they support you?
They’re all very supportive.
- What do you do when you’re not doing poetry?
I read, meet friends for lunch, and water my kale. I have a love/hate relationship with Netflix.
- Which poem or poems do you love to perform the most and why?
I strive for variety when I perform. I don’t get on stage much, so when I do I like to show a part of myself no one’s seen before. As people we are constantly evolving and it should reflect in our work.
- Where would you like to see yourself within the next 3 to 5 years as an artist?
I want to be a Cave Canem fellow. I want my work on the shelves of bookstores. I want to spend every day inside of a classroom teaching kids the value of words.
- What do you do to get ready for a show?
I don’t have a set list I marry. I end up performing whatever I feel in the moment. I find somewhere quiet for a few minutes and try to connect with the universe. I ask for help being clear and making the audience forget they’re in a crowded room.
- What is your wildest poet/poetry story?
Ha, I guess I’m pretty boring! I don’t really have any crazy stories.
- What is the furthest show from home that you have done?
I was a Special Guest Poet at the 2014 Austin International Poetry Festival.
- If you could perform with anyone in the world, either dead or alive, who would it be? Why?
Shel Silverstein. I love his darkness. He’s primarily known for the poetry he wrote for kids that comes off as really silly and whimsical, but they can be pretty intense, too. He was also a musician, and in that world his new moon shined in all its dark glory. I think if we brought our love for kids together and mixed it with our shadow selves we could make the beautiful parts of nightmares.
- How do you think you would be remembered by people if something were to suddenly happen to you?
She always wore a flower. Why is there no poetry in my newsfeed anymore? Oh.
- As an artist, is there anything special you hope to be able to accomplish?
If I can inspire others, especially children, to write and value language as an art medium, I’ll be more than happy.
- How has your poetry evolved from your first poem to one of your recent poems?
The first poems I shared as an adult were pretty tame—mundane stuff from daily life. I was afraid to go deeper for a while. I’m not afraid to be naked anymore, at all.
- What do you attribute to your “drive as an artist”?
A lot of the times I don’t feel driven. It’s hard to write—not because I have writer’s block or no material, but because the stuff is just so heavy I don’t know that I feel like going there or if I’m ready. Writing is emotionally exhausting, but the end result is so rewarding. So I guess closure is the answer. That breath you take after you put the pen down, that’s what drives me. The sense of peace that comes at the end of a poem.
- What do you think makes you and your type of poetry unique from other poets?
I think my view of spirituality is unique. I’ve also lived in a lot of different environments and seen things that surprise people who read my work. I think the wrapping paper hides what’s inside the box really well. I think people see me and see the flower in my hair and talk about my sweet smile, and then I get on stage and ruin everything they thought they knew about me.
- As an artist how would you define success?
Happiness. The feeling of being full, and content, and not wanting any more than what you have.
- If you had to think of a slogan that could leave a positive impact for everyone what with your slogan be?
I think the Golden Rule sums it up pretty well. I think some version of it is in most world religions for a reason.
- What projects or products do you have or that are in the works?
My focus for the next year is submitting my work to publications and reworking my manuscript. I’d like to do more spoken word with musicians. I have friends that compose a project called Momentary Gamelan Ensemble and they’ve invited me to do spontaneous poetry to their sounds. I like the fluidity of that kind of thing and would definitely like to do more of it—surprising yourself with what words you give an audience is pretty fun.
- Do you have any video links where people can see you? (Website/Facebook/email/etc…)
- Is there anyone special you would like to thank for helping you become who you are as an artist?
Don Whittington. He’s the old man that encouraged me to share what I have with others. I love him. Growing up as the oldest of five gave me a maturity that I hope shows in my work. The women in my life, my mother and my nana, who read to me each night definitely started this love affair with words. My mom was a nurse, and when she had to work at night she left her voice in a tape recorder that picked up the story from where we left off the night before. All I had to do was push PLAY.
Complete the following sentences.
- Without poetry, I would be: an emotional wreck with no outlet.
- Poetry is: everywhere.
- My poetry makes me feel: all the things, and then some.
- I write poetry because: I have no choice.
- Support poetry because: you will feel more connected to your world.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?
Thank you for reading! Thank you for supporting art in your community <3