In the Poetry Library With Vievee Francis


Everything in America is wild. When my husband suggested
we move from Detroit, which is of course extremely urban, into the mountains of
western North Carolina. I didn’t know I wouldn’t
have a picnic again for another three years,
because everything bites. (laughs) There were bears, and
insects I’d never heard of, snakes, it was terrifying to me. I got angry, no one warned
me how wild this is, and the people around me were used to it. So it seemed to me they were blind, and couldn’t see how wild everything was. And I just started kind
of writing these little anti-pastorals, and then they grew. I wanted to say that negotiating American wilderness is as difficult as negotiating the urban,
or at least it was for me. There’s the assumption
that if you are in nature, then suddenly you are one with your soul, at peace with God, I didn’t
feel anything like that! (chuckles) I felt frightened, and I felt my smallness, but not in a good way, not in a way that restrains and controls the overactive ego. I felt as if I was slowly being erased, and it took a while to find my footing. Now the interesting thing is, they say, at least in that part of
the lower Appalachians, that it takes five years, and once that happens you’re not gonna leave those mountains. So I think we were there
about three and a half, but that really was all it took, because as much as I cried
the first year and a half, I cried twice as much having
to leave those mountains. When I first started writing,
I really wrote persona poems, I wrote in the third-person,
I wrote outside of my self. This time I really committed to going in. In getting down the matter of my life, so in that way I wanted
some documentation, but poetry is fictive,
and memory is slippery. I’m working on a memoir, and I’m very excited about that, and I’m also constantly writing poetry, so book four is, I wanna say it’s almost done. I don’t know when it’s gonna be done, but I’m getting there with it. I let myself go in book three, I felt I’ve got the
craft, I know the rules, I know the conventions,
I needed something else, I needed something, I needed something to
conceptually open up, and I think that happened
in Forest Primeval. Now I’m just kind of organically seeing where the work goes,
and allowing it to be. My journal writing is
probably my practice, and I pick it up, and put
it down in spates, y’know. Sometimes I’ll write in
a journal for six months, and then I write nothing, and then I may throw the journal away, or I might write in a journal for a year and decide to keep it. I’m working on a series of essays, and the essays are around
craft, and culture. But those things kind
of oil the wheel for me, they keep language always there. Also I find I must have, and crave
writerly conversations. I need to talk to other writers. After 9/11, so many people
were writing poetry, were picking up pens, and writing. So, of course poetry is foundational art, that’s never going to change, it’s going to always be a part of cultural life around the world. And as far as reading goes, well, we’re not in a period where we have one small group of people who are determined to be our poets, and everyone reads them. So it seems as if at one
time there were more readers, but really we have more
readers now, it’s just that instead of reaching an audience of 200,000 with a book, I might reach an audience of 2,000. But then there are 1,999 other poets also reaching audiences of 2,000. There’s slam, there’s spoken word, and many of those young poets will then pick up text, move into the writing of it, so yes, there’s more poetry
being read now than ever before. I simply did not know that my work was being
read as widely as it was, and so it brought things to my attention, and that’s a healing thing,
it’s a wonderful thing. And of course I wouldn’t
have stopped writing, I write compulsively,
I’m a writers, writer. I’m gonna write for as
long as I’m able to write, no matter what happens, publications, awards aside, I have to do this. There are many, many ways for a black woman to be erased. There are many, many ways
for a woman to be erased. There are many, many ways for someone who is not wealthy to be erased. Again, it’s a healing
thing, an affirming thing. and I’m very, very appreciative of it.

One thought on “In the Poetry Library With Vievee Francis

  1. Amazing same wonderful delivery and humor after so many years. Glad that she's getting the recognition she deserves.

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