The Monthly interviews American poet, Catrice Greer – Part 2

Part one of this interview is here

What were your influences?

I have to credit my High School teacher, Mr William Waters, firstly my classes were very small, usually 8 to 12 maybe 15 students, and I was very lucky in that I was able to receive a lot of one on one time with him. He taught me a lot about form, structure, about technique and by the time I got to college I had a very good grounding in terms of understanding about the technical side of writing poetry.

Regarding writing influences, there are a lot of those because I was an avid reader and if I was to pick a key figure it would be, Toni Morrison. In High School I was gifted books or more accurately, directed towards certain writers, by the librarian and by my teacher, so Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange, and Jean Auel would be writers I also admired.

Toni Morrison

When I got to College, I was studying African American writers and I was also attending another College on Saturdays, Sojourner-Douglass College; the school was called Freedom School and I learned a lot there particularly about African American writers.

What processes do you use to write your poetry?

I think I have a very good grounding technically, and I really do use many different approaches depending on what I want to write about.

If I was in a  situation where I was given a prompt I would probably use a visualising process whereby I can ascertain relatively quickly where I would like my ideas to go and then I can start writing the  poem.

When I am working on a spoken word piece, the sound of the words matters immensely. That can be quite different compared to the approach I would need to take when the poem is to be accessed on a page. Sometimes I think when you are working on material for the page you need to ensure that the wordplay, the rhymes, or the metre you are using is clearly conveyed to the mind of the reader. The skills and techniques required to do that can be very different from the skills and techniques you require to write words for the immediate impact an audience requires.

I find I have developed my skills over many years so, when I was younger, I would have to work quite hard to get the constituent parts, the technical elements of a poem, the ideas, to work together, but that really isn’t the case now. I tend now to work much more on metre, on rhythm, on breath, the breathing required to deliver a line, or a section of a poem, and also the sound of the words.

Where to now?

I think things have changed so much over the last few years. In the past a poet or writer’s goal might have been to get published, to find that niche orientation which could allow you to build an academic career and to publish collections. I think the internet has changed that way of approaching writing poetry and building an audience for your writing.

I do write prolifically and I find that I am sharing a lot of material on the internet, building up an online presence, creating connections between me and people who are looking to access poetry online. I am also in the process of producing a book, a collection, because that is still important, but I wouldn’t expect that to be available until 2023.

To see more of Catrice Greer’s work see the link below


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