A Poet talks about poetry

An in-depth discussion about Sabrina Simon's book of poetry, "Violet," and the overall state of poetry in America. What is the future of Poetry? Sabrina will give you her opinion. Her book, "Violet," is full of beautiful love poetry that talks about all those strange feelings we experience when we are in love.

Thank you Sabrina for taking the time to chat with us.

Thank you for the opportunity. I’m excited for this.

1           Do you come from a literary background?
I don’t come from a literary background, at least I don’t think so. Only recently, I remember the FCAT was the standardized test in the US, and I scored well on the writing portion majority of the time. I believe the highest score was 6, and I would receive 4’s whether narrative or expository. When I made that connection, I realized I probably always had a knack for writing.

2              Have you always had a love for words?
My love for words started in the midst of writing poetry. In 2017, it wasn’t something I used solely for therapeutic reasons, but it was an actual love that developed. All the words in my poems were meant to be there. My favorite word is intimacy, which reads like into-me-see. It’s about vulnerability, lifting your mask, and allowing yourself to be seen while allowing yourself to feel. Being in touch with your emotions, not being dismissive, and recognizing that sensitivity and vulnerability is not a weakness. That word is at the center of anything I write because I’m an emotional human being.

I also like discovering new words when I’m in writing mode to liven up my descriptive palette. When I began writing stories again in 2019, there was this page on Tumblr that posted words of the day, and I came across some beautiful words like tristful, sillage, appetency, toska, and reverie to name a few. All those words translate to beauty and being a love poet, the words I use are synonymous with that.

3              In your own words what's your new collection titled, “Violet,” all about?
Violet is about love. Love found, love unrequited, love alienated, love lost, and love potentially found again. It’s my experience with that emotion, I’ve only been in love with one person, never in a relationship though, and I worked and wrote my way through it.

4              How did you arrive at the title “Violet,” for this collection?
I’m so happy you asked that question! I touched on this briefly in the preface, but here’s the full story. On April 14th, 2017, my favorite rapper Kendrick Lamar released his long-awaited album, DAMN., and once I understood the concept behind it, and he’s a conceptual artist naturally, it inspired me to develop my own. It was April 16th, I remember lying in bed thinking of the concept.

The concept was; I have a book of love poems, and since violet and purple are interchangeable, the book itself represents creativity, and maintains an aura of calmness and upliftment since love can go both ways. Originally, I wanted within each title, there to be a slash of red or blue striking through. My reasoning: red represents romance, love, passion, etc. So any poem with those themes, red slash. Blue, which is my favorite color, represents calm, serenity, sincerity, sadness, melancholy, love as well etc. So any poem with those themes, blue slash. Any with both combined, purple.

Overall, blue represents me (calm stability), and red represents the love I have and hold (fierce energy). It’s fierce because I’m “too passionate”, so it creates violet/purple. The feelings and care I give and hope to get in return, and the magic that occurs, which lies within the poems, and speaks for itself, which is contained in the book, what it’s about, but not limited to.

I came up with that and shared the idea with my mutuals on Tumblr, and they loved the title, and the concept, and said it was well thought out. I was so excited, and knew I wanted at least 45 poems. I think I did research each color to get the meaning as well because I do love colors and color psychology. Even though part of the concept wasn’t executed, the feeling I hope each poem gives, does. I liken it to the cinematography of a scene in a film; colors can elicit psychological reactions from an audience and set the tone, so the title choice was deliberate. I’m really proud of that.

5              What was your strategy for organizing the poems in this collection?
I had two ways to go about it. Relating to the concept, I could’ve organized the poems in colors. The poems that represented romance, love, and passion fall under red. Sadness, melancholy, a calmer version of love for blue, and any mix of those emotions for violet. I didn’t roll with that because I felt organizing them by years would be more impactful in terms of my growth as a writer, and dealing with love, it shows a subtle change in my approach and thoughts toward it. Since I chose close to half of all the poems I do have, and wrote about a dozen new pieces, it was better to do it by the years.

6              How do your poems develop? Please guide us through the stages of your poem creation.
To be completely honest, I don’t have a process. I have several poems where I’m inspired by songs, so I automatically have a template if you will as far as flow, but I just get into a trance. Once I snap out of it, the poem is done, and I read it over to make sure it’s to my liking. Make the necessary adjustments, and use the best words possible. My imagination is fertile, so the spark to write ignites anywhere from anything. I’ve been inspired by songs, a phrase, a quote, and poems. I would love to make it seem like I have this elaborate, creative process on how I create, but I just get into a zone where I’m focused and nothing can penetrate the trance I’m in.

7              Did you write as a child?
Only when I had to, which was for school. I didn’t read or write much on my own, so it does boggle my mind now, but I remember a time in middle school where I loved those writing camps we had to do in preparation for the state tests. So, I think my writing ability, and love were nurtured in school, I just didn’t realize it at the time.

8              Do you remember writing your first words of poetry?  And what was it about?
Technically, my first poem was for my Yearbook class in high school, my freshmen year. We were learning to use Photoshop, so we had this template called, “I Am”, and we had to make a video with voiceover, and make a photoshopped image based on our poem. This was March 2015, so To Pimp A Butterfly just released, police brutality was on the rise, and tensions were on the street. My focus for that poem, and my first few poems centered on that. I don’t have them anymore, but they weren’t good.

9              What were your early poetry influences and inspirations?
Watching Def Poetry Jam on Youtube influenced the spoken word style some of my poems emulate. Tupac Shakur’s poetry book “The Rose That Grew From Concrete” is the only poetry book I have that I love and continuously read. I bought his book at the beginning of 2017, and I was inspired by two of his poems, “What Can I Offer Her?” and “Forever and Today” that I wrote my own versions of. We’re both Gemini’s, so his raw, honest, and intimate thoughts he penned down inspired me to be unafraid of bearing my soul in my writing.

10           What sparked your initial love of poetry?
I think understanding the power of words, and how they can reach, relate, and stir emotion in anyone. My Tumblr days, I had people comment on how beautiful my poems were, and that’s the best compliment I can receive because that’s the goal. Also, creating rhyme schemes, rhythmic patterns, entering certain pockets, and establishing flows, and cadence. I love rap, and that coincides with poetry, so having the ability to do that is amazing.

11           Do you find writing poetry easy?

I would say so, I don’t think I’ve ever been stumped on a poem. I don’t overthink the structure or style, I just write, and I’m able to find the right words, and they go in the right places. It’s seamless; I don’t try to force it, and it’s not premeditated. I think that’s where my simple and direct style comes from. I think if I specified what type of poem I wanted to write, it would make it more difficult because I have to write it in a certain way to fit the structure designated for that type of poem. I write how I feel, it comes straight from the heart, and it comes right out of me.

12           What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever heard?
I wouldn’t say this is advice, but this is my favorite quote when I think about my writing as a whole.

“May your work be compelling and original. May it be profound, touching, contemplative, and unique. May it help us to reflect on the question of what it means to be human, and may that reflection be blessed with heart, sincerity, candor, and grace. May you overcome adversity, censorship, poverty, and nihilism, as many of you will most certainly be obliged to do… May you be blessed with the talent and rigor to teach us about the beating of the human heart in all its complexity, and the humility and curiosity to make it your life’s work. And may the best of you…for it will only be the best of you, and even then only in the rarest and briefest moments…succeed in framing that most basic of questions, ‘how do we live?’ Godspeed.” - John Malkovich

That’s a quote I always revisit, especially now as I’m trying to get my book out there. It’s a constant and gentle reminder on how and why I write, and why I need to continue pushing ahead.

13           What do you feel most well-written poems have in common?
They’re relatable and make you feel something. Poetry is art, and it’s an art about intimacy. So if someone reads my work and isn’t touched by it, they felt nothing, it doesn’t live with them long after they’ve read it, I didn’t write well.

14           What poetry writers did you enjoy reading as a child?
I didn’t like reading as a child, believe it or not. I still don’t, which confused my English teacher, but that’s more so for novels. I am more open to poetry books, but I’m selective. The poet that was always presented to me as a child was Shakespeare. That was always in the curriculum. Now that I’m older, and have such tenderness in my heart for poetry, I do appreciate Shakespeare more. Edgar Allan Poe was another poet I remember reading.

15           Who are your favorite living poets?
Rap is poetry, so Kendrick Lamar and Ms. Lauryn Hill on the music front, both inspired poems in my book. H.E.R. who is exceptional at fusing poetry and music together, and I feel when she does that, those are her best songs. I watched “Def Poetry Jam” consistently when I first started writing, and Shihan van Chief was and still is the best spoken word/slam poet to me. “A Love Like” is a classic. My favorite poets tend to be more contemporary, and musically inclined.

16           Who are your favorite dead poets?
Tupac Shakur and DMX changed my life, saved my life even as for all the names I named for living. I can relate to them to the highest degree, and their words eased my circumstances.

17           Does the Internet and social media contribute to the well-being of poetry?
Yes and No. Yes, because it makes it more accessible. No, because I think it influenced a formula for publishing poetry. The cover arts are almost the same, the poems are written in the same structure with the same line breaks, all the words are lowercase, majority of the poems are short length, and the themes are mostly the same, and because of that, if a poetry book doesn’t subscribe to what’s now widely known, I think it won’t give other poetry that’s different from that formula a fair shake.

18           Can you give any advice to someone wanting to write and publish poetry?
My advice would be to write what you feel, and write from your heart. It’s cliche, but one of my favorite quotes is, “When you put all your soul into a work, all that is noble in you, you cannot fail to find a kindred soul that understands you.” so as long as you’re writing what you love, and you love doing it, everything else will fall into place. As far as publishing, my goal was and is to keep 100% of my rights, and have creative freedom with my book, so self-publishing was the best option. You have to work harder to get your work out there, but I think it’s well worth it. So it depends on what the end goal is.

19           Do you think there is there a strong culture of poetry in America?
No, I’ve always said that poetry is criminally underrated and underappreciated, and I believe writing in general is as well. I think if there was a strong culture of poetry, it would be discussed and celebrated more. Nobody I’ve seen deems National Poetry Month important or worth noting.

20           So how should we celebrate National Poetry Month?
I think if there were a show for poets to come on in front of a televised audience, and a streaming service like Netflix picked it up, it might garner more attention. Millions of Americans use Netflix, so I think that’s the easiest way while building hype and mystic for the month.

21           What is your favorite writing space?
My room, either at my desk on my Mac, or in my bed on my laptop, and it’s quiet. That’s the most important thing, that it’s quiet. I can’t concentrate when it’s noisy. Music might be playing in the background as well. I can’t say this for sure, but the majority of my poems are written at night.

22           What advice can you offer aspiring poets?
Write with good intentions, keep your vision honest and true, and the words and art will find you.

23           Is there a second collection in the works?
There isn’t, but I can’t say with certainty there won’t be. Nothing is certain in life; I thought I was through with writing, and I wrote again. I never thought I would publish a book of poetry, and I did. Who knows what the future holds? Now, though, I've refocused on my film career, and writing screenplays.

24           Have you ever considered turning your poetry into song verses?
I haven’t, but that’s not to say it’s impossible, but I do want to make animated videos and film shorts for my poetry. At least 10 or less.

25           What are your major inspirations today?
Like the quote from Dead Poets Society, poetry, beauty, and romance are what I stay alive for. Music and film also inspire me. Overall, I think my faith in God is what harnesses my motivation and drive to do what my purpose is. I know writing is a major part of that, and because I have so much to say, that’s what inspires me to keep going.

Thank you for your time Sabrina, look forward to reading a lot more of your work in the future.

Thank you! I had a blast, and God willing I’ll have more work to produce in the future.


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