This month my featured blogger Candice Louisa Daquin of thefeatheredsleep.
I’ve long admired your poetry. Thank you for agreeing to this interview,
When did you start to write?
As a child. I had a best friend who wrote and we would write poetry together. At the time, I was most influenced by the idea of giving a voice to feelings through the world around us. I liked to combine what I saw with what I felt. It was pretty childish and simplistic because I was a terrible speller, since English is my second language. I have since worked hard to become a more eloquent and careful writer and I do employ a lot of consideration rather than just writing out and posting.
Who are your poetic influences?
My favorite book of prose-poetry is by an author called Elizabeth Smart and it’s called As I Sat Down at Grand Central Station and Wept. That book has influenced my writing more than any other it is an incredible tour du force of emotional landscape and language and unlike anything I have ever read before. Second to that I am drawn to the metaphysical poets. Toni Morrison is not really a poet per say but when I read her work it reads like poetry, I think she has the most magnificent understanding of how to use language of any modern author, she is both phantasmagoric and highly realistic and that blend really stays with me. Nikki Giovanni’s candor and magnification. The erotica of Anais Nin. Maya Angelou’s truth and wisdom. The mythology of Tennyson. Audre Lorde’s history. The impenetrable landscape of William Blake. Gwendolyn Brooks raw honesty. Emily Bronte’s world and sadness. My friend introduced me to Anne Sexton about five years ago her work appeals to me more than Sylvia Plath. Of course e.e. Cummings especially his poem about little hands that was quoted in Hannah and her Sisters (Woody Allen). I admire the preciseness of Mary Oliver and Stevie Smith though they write very differently from myself. My family were forced out of Egypt to France due to being Jewish. I have long been influenced by the wonderful writing of Nawal El Saadawi who campaigns for gender equality in Egypt and Vandana Shiva a Hindi woman who is a huge campaigner for non GMO in India and environmental equality. Neither are poets but they influence me in their courage and thinking as much as any poet. I am drawn to the feminine many times but there are some excellent male poets, though since the world has been so dominated historically by men I do appreciate the voices of women. I could probably produce a list of 100 people who influence me, many are song-writers like Kate Bush and Tori Amos, Supertramp and Bruce Springstein, Dory Previn and Ry Cooder.
Where were you raised and how does that affect your style?
In France. Then I was educated in Britain where I lived a long time before moving to America where I have lived 14 years aside one where I lived in Canada. People often ask me where do I think of as home. I cannot say. I don’t feel particularly influenced by a country so much as varied cultures. My Jewish culture influences me, it’s very different from the most Anglo Jewish culture seen in the USA. Sephardi culture is Spanish maybe that is why living in San Antonio which is predominantly Hispanic is so comfortable for me. Style-wise I speak English as taught to me in England with the influence of my varied cultures behind it (Egyptian, France, and some Americanisms!).
I hear strong politics in your work, Are you politically active?
Perhaps not as much as I used to be or as much as (we all) should be but enough that I cannot believe an armchair approach works or we should hope that others do the work for us. We should be the change we want to see. Most immigrants will confess they have felt helpless in politics, that their voices were not heard, it is up to us as adoptees of new countries to do our part and not expect others to be our representatives. Equally as a woman this is also true. I get disheartened by the lack of support women have for one another, and the continued attack on women politically but that said, we need to ensure all people are heard, rather than merely concentrating on those causes that are our own.
You write on your blog, “Please do not visit if optimism is your single mantra as you’ll be disappointed. This strives to be a judgment free zone. I appreciate critique but ultimately I cannot write with social restriction or fear of offending or being hated for what I choose. It’s my story, I make no apology.”
Have you had the feeling that other people expected you to apologize for your life? In what way?
Yes definitely. I come from a very talented family who had very high standards. I always fell short of them. I am not as technically ‘clever’ as some of my relatives and I knew that at an early age. For many years it stymied me (through my own fault) and prevented me from really writing it out. I used to work in publishing then I re-trained in Psychotherapy and worked in Rape Crisis Centers but got very burned out. I was told often I should write, but I couldn’t bring myself to because I knew I would be criticized and having grown up with a heavy dose of criticism it is hard to put yourself out there. Finally when a publisher took a chance on me that gave me the courage and confidence to go forward, the rest has been thanks to the support of my friends of my work. This year I have seen myself grow and I can only attribute this to others who have both influenced and inspired me, and kept me going when I felt I should give up. As for actually apologizing for my life, no not my actual life but what I choose to reflect in my poetry (which is by no means all autobiographical). Equally the purpose of the quote was to rebut the idea that everything we write should be optimistic and happy, I just do not agree with that. I have written uplifting and positive poetry but equal due should be given to realistic, or even sad poetry. I don’t much care for the positive movement that ironically condemns anyone who isn’t, if it were working less people would be depressed. It condemns those who are mentally ill and struggling and ensures they are further alienated, how is this progressive? I’d like to see more inclusion and less exclusion among cliques and minorities. That is what I mean when I wrote that, as well as basically asking people to take me or leave me because as any writer will attest, if you let the opinions of others hold you back you will cease to be authentic and truth to yourself.
My first book published by STPGI I was very proud of a bit like the sentimentality of a first car. I cannot really say what is my ‘best’ work because I don’t relate to the idea of ‘best’ versus whatever the opposite of that is. As Popeye says, I yam what I yam and that’s my philosophy too. For some they will be drawn to one book over the other, they all have valuable work and lesser work I’m sure.
What matters to you most as a writer?
It matters incredibly to give voices to things I feel society cuts down or dismisses. This is what drives me. I am often told aside the language I employ, what people feel drawn to in my work is my honesty and my willingness to ‘go there’ and talk about things others feel may be indelicate. I started a movement on WP called #unsung, it was the idea of writing about an unsung hero and many people took it up and wrote their own version. I feel as a culture we spend too much time on people that we’re told have worth like reality TV stars, and not enough time on those who actually do. It’s neither about fame nor fortune, but the messages ordinary people have that can change the world. I am very positive about the power of change through sharing truths. Truth really is everything. I expose myself not because I’m an exhibitionist (I’m probably the opposite) but in order to shine a light on truth and not be a hypocrite by hiding behind any fear of what that may bring.
What key influences do you have when it comes to subjects and emotions in writing and where do you think they came from?
I am deeply influenced by our varied cultures and the wars that go on between us, as we seek to force our opinion upon others. It angers me that anyone should tell a woman what she should do with her body, because I believe until we have walked in the shoes of someone else, we cannot understand what it is like for them to make the decisions they make. Racially I see a divide in this country like I have seen in no other, though my native France has struggled since I left, with growing divides between Muslim and non-Muslim populations that has really gotten out of control. In America I see a lot of people of color feeling they have no voice, and a lot of anglo people feeling guilty about this but not enough changing. Equally I do not believe it should be a one-way-street, as there is racism from people of color toward anglos in equal measure. The key is being honest, and calling ourselves on our stuff and that includes our hypocrisy and our feelings of entitlement. I do believe things can change and I think all writers are part of that change because we channel it through our expression. In addition I feel strongly about the voices of the mentally ill and the homosexual community, and I have tried to express this alongside equality for all oppressed peoples. I don’t know I stretch myself enough because I think our inherent bias toward certain subjects means as writers that’s going to be the bulk of our work but I try to reach into other subjects as much as possible.
What motivates you as a writer and what demotivates you?
I am motivated by other writers who are kind enough to read my work and comment on it. I am motivated by the passion and rawness of other work and the variety from say, a Millennials perspective to someone in their eighties. I love the WP community for that, we come together from everywhere in the world and learn so much from each other. I am particularly enchanted by the rise in Indian poets, they are among my favorite and they can write better in English than most native English speakers which says something about our education system versus theirs! One of my favorite poets on WP is Tetiana Aleksina, she is Ukrainian and her understanding of language is unbelievable, she compels me to always try harder. What demotivates me is pretty obvious, if someone is particularly unkind, I can be defeated, and I am working on not letting that happen. Struggling with some inherited depression can influence my output but I try to work through it. Confidence is a hard thing to keep going, though I’d rather struggle with my confidence than be overly-confident, as our world already has too many narcissists. I admire humility and honesty.
Why do people feel drawn to what you write?
I think I appeal for different reasons. As a gay woman I’m one of the only gay women I know who writes regularly about our specific vantage point. As someone who is multi-cultural and of mixed ethnicity I can tap into that, and the voices of immigrants and displaced people. I try to continually improve my use of language, I am not much of a fan of rules in writing especially the forms of Tanka and Haiku but I admire and learn from those who employ them. I like to write it out without such restraints but often I am told my work has a sound that is very resonant and lyrical, if this is true it shows you can rhyme without rules. I’m working on my first book of prose, a psychological thriller of all things. I’m fortunate to have enough time in between my job to make this happen and I work really, really hard because you have to earn everything you get in life through hard work. Maybe people respect me because they know how hard I work and hopefully sometimes the result is worthy. That’s all we can ever hope for.
the child menstruates
bleeding away her
need to play
she is captured
starched and polished
until catching the eye of a man
old enough to have given her life
she is sold
in so much some marriages are not
and her private parts are laid bare
under a shard of glass standing in for knife
then the girl knows
she is a woman
spreading her wide to ensure
she was not defiled
her hymen reinforced
her clitoris removed
if she is not sewn tightly enough
her husband will not feel
special nor soak the ritual bed sheet
she could die if she does not tear apart
sufficiently for the relatives
who bay for her blood
if she feels anything but gratitude and pain
she may be tempted by someone else
perhaps the boy her age
who with her in the dirt played
before she had to give up
being a child and become
a woman slain
in shackles of faith
Candice has worked for Rattle poetry magazine and the Northern Review as well as being featured in many publications. She also collaborates with a bundle of talented writers at hijacked amygdala
You can find Candice Louisa’s poetry at the following links: