Last week I posted Part 1 of my interview with poet and spoken word artist Ami Mattision. In that post, Ami talked about the early influences on her decision to become a poet, discussed what makes a poem successful when performed before an audience, and described where she performs her work. Today, Ami shares her thoughts about writing for a particular audience, discusses her themes and subjects, and speaks about the influence on her writing of her southern "roots".
Maureen Doallas: Do you write with a particular audience in mind? Do you write particular poems for particular kinds of audiences or events?
Ami Mattison: I don't really write for a particular audience but I do consider the extent towards which my poetry is accessible. I have this notion that if my mama (who is an intelligent though not formally educated person) can't read it or hear it and understand and enjoy [it], then I haven't done my job as a poet. I want my poetry to be read and heard by the widest audience possible. So, using accessible language and accessible images is really important to me.
MD: What themes or subjects do you most like to write about, and why?
AM: The themes and subjects that inhabit most of my writings are not particularly "enjoyable" ones but they are, for me, necessary ones. I write about my various identities and experiences related to the politics of gender, race, sexuality, and class. I write about being Southern and an adoptee and about my experiences of childhood sexual abuse and incest. Finally, I write about my mental illness and the experiences that accompany depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and thoughts of suicide. Most of my work doesn't convey pleasant or fun topics. I write a lot of "purging" poems—ones that are intended to exorcise ghosts and difficult experiences.
MD: How much of your work could be called "fact" or "personal information"?
AM: While I'm a poet, I'd say, perhaps first and foremost, I'm also a storyteller. So, while most of my poetry and writings are based in my personal experience, I tend to shift facts in order to best convey the actual truth of an experience. My poetry is almost always centered on personal experience, mine or someone else's.
MD: What, if any, influence have your Southern roots had on your writing?
AM: Being Southern, I grew up around storytellers. You'll find that many of my writings are narrative pieces or ones that use bits of narrative to drive the poems. Also, I'd say that some of my themes are based in my Southern roots and my sensibilities tend toward Southern gothic. But the one influence of my Southern roots is my performance voice. My Southern accent becomes quite pronounced during performances because I write and hear my poems in a Southern voice. People have described my voice as similar to [that of] a Southern Baptist preacher. Others have called me a "hick". [It] doesn't matter to me what they call me; I'm going to speak the way I learned to speak and the way those I grew up with and love speak, because [that voice] is comforting, familiar, and an inherent part of who I am.
MD: Amy, thank you for making your time available to give us a peek into your writing life. I wish you much continued success.
Links to Ami
poetryNprogress (Ami's blog)