We love insight into the creative process. Could you share what it is like for you, either with your work that appears in Tiny Spoon or in general? Do you follow any rituals or creative exercises to spark your writing process?
I had two poems appear in the Memory issue of Tiny Spoon, and both of those poems were inspired by thinking whimsically about everyday life. One poem was inspired by a moody portrait of my cousin, and the other was inspired by thinking about how sensory experiences contain the living memories of my family/ancestors. I ask myself questions, like what would it look like and mean to place all those sensations together. For “Remembering: Redux” what if I placed my passed on family members in the same poem– what sensory elements introduce them to the poem? At the end of that poem, there is a nod to a Frantz Fanon quote I’ve always admired, the final lines of Black Skin, White Masks. So another part of my inspiration is reading and being inspired into a kind of conversation with the authors.
What inspired you to begin and maintain these practices?
Towards a former career path, I read a lot of political theory and critical theory. I would find that they inspired thoughts and words, but that it rarely came out as neat and clean prose. When I leaned into those ideas as poetry instead of just as messy prose, it opened up how I could interact with what I was reading and thinking. It also made it easier to apply those ideas back to my everyday life. So it’s the same boring but true advice most writers have: read more and use the reading to get inspired to write. It’s never consistent, but I try my best to maintain a regular reading schedule, which in turn maintains a regular writing schedule.
Does your writing intersect with other creative practices?
Absolutely! As a poet, I try my best to operate as a musician. I am very interested in multi-media work and it is another reason why I love poetry: it is very amenable to many formats. My extended play project SYZYGY started out as poems and became music and short films. Also I have plans for my chapbook BODYELECTRONIC to have an experimental audio component to it as well. Even my paintings and visual art has found its way back into my poetry, with a few of my paintings now as cover art for poetry projects.
If your work was a song, what would it be?
Such a hard question, just one song!? I feel like my answer would change everyday. So today, my answer is Jupiter by Kelela. There is such a feeling, such a gravity to that song for some reason, that eclipses even the lyrics in sentiment. But the lyrics too– simultaneously, it feels like I’m eavesdropping on an intimate phone call and also being comforted by a close friend. I hope my work can evoke those kinds of feelings, regardless of what the words are. And that the words can maintain an air of mystery and intrigue, while also being comforting and familiar.
Are there any artists/ heroines/ idols/ friends who have been influential to your work?
So many! I gotta name my favorite musicians, of course, so Kelela, FKA twigs, Sevdaliza, Kllo, Jamie Woon, Purity Ring. Too many wonderful poets to name also, but poets like Liza Sparks, Beca Baca, Ashia Ajani, Hakeem Furious, C. Louise Williams – all of them friends but also talented poets who have impacted my craft and poetics greatly! Also, importantly, shoutout to my sister Alisha who was the first to teach me that creativity breeds more creativity.
Are there any natural entities that move your work?
I don’t explicitly consider myself an eco-poet; however, nature, and especially a dire concern for the human damage upon nature, is always entering my poetry in one way or another. I focus on the body as an entry way into these discussions, as conversations about the body tend towards the environmental conditions and elements. So all kinds of natural entities move my work, always!
What is on your reading list this season?
There are always so many good books coming out, again too many to name. So I’ll share my current library book haul (I’ve started all of the books but am still working through each one): The Renunciations by Donika Kelly; Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis; Gumbo Ya Ya by Aurielle Marie; Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers by Jake Skeets; Heed the Hollow by Malcolm Tariq; and Exiles of Eden by Ladan Osman
Can you share your philosophy on sustaining creative communities?
Probably the most important thing is to show up! Show up for your friends, attend their events and pay for their merch. Try to show up to events and meetings as often as you feel capable– and get involved, take on roles and positions. We have more power than we think we do– we can start our own open mics, our own publications, our own organizations. But also, there are always so many people already doing the work we want to do– partner up with other artists and organizations and work together to achieve those shared goals. The ultimate philosophy is simple: You shine, I shine, we all shine.
What advice would you give to emerging writers?
Similar to the last answer. Just show up. Start now. There is always more to improve and more to learn, but the reality is that you truly are enough now. Start where you are and build up with the folks around you, build upward with your friends.
Is there anything else you would like others to know about you, your creations, or beyond?
Not to be a walking comercial, but just check out my work! There is a growing archive on my website phaentompoet.com . I write all sorts of poems, so if one isn’t for you, perhaps another might be! I have a chapbook out as well as a few music projects and single poems. Let me know what you think!
What projects are you working on? Can we find you at any upcoming events, etc.?
For folks in Denver, after the Sunday workshop in the evening, I am a featured performer in a fantastic lineup of a wonderful poetry and music show. Listen to Your Skin is teaming up with Jazzetry for their first in-person event on April 24th at 7pm at RIVER. I have full-length poetry collection manuscripts I’m working on. One is titled BODYPOLITIC and the other is titled ubiquities . Most pressingly, for my chapbook BODYELECTRONIC (which is out now!) I’m trying to put together an experimental audio experience as well as a set of events to celebrate its release. Stay posted on my social media for more info about that.
Where can people learn more about what you do?
You can find me everywhere @phaentompoet or via my website phaentompoet.com
More about Aerik Francis and our Tiny Residency can be found at https://tinyspoon.org/2022-tiny-residents/.