doris davenport 

request (Imaginary Friend Press, 2014)  request-cover

What are some of your favorite chapbooks? Or what are some chapbooks that have influenced your writing?

Naming my favorite chapbooks could take a while since my favorites change often or rather, the list keeps growing. i have chapbook collections that date from the 1960’s; the writers of the Black Arts Movement (BAM) inspired me, especially the works of Haki Madhabuti (then Don Lee), Saundra Sharp, Sonya Sanchez and others. When i started submitting poems, at the height of the wimmin’s (women) cultural movement in the late 1970’s, several chapbooks / authors were influential and necessary: Linda Jean Brown of azalea; Michiyo Cornell, Chocolate Waters’ books, Mab Segrest, and Luisah Teish. Often i buy a chapbook just because i like the cover art.  Lately, i am inspired by chapbooks from Julie Enszer, Jaki Shelton Green, Kay Byer, and Shelby Stephenson. i even have a self-published chapbook (1979), and all these works created  “revolutionary” possibilities; because of them, i was inspired to create and self-publish my first chapbook in 1980 and to continue self-publishing thereafter.

What might these favorite or influential chapbooks suggest about you and your writing?

Mainly, i believe, these chapbooks demonstrate that i appreciate a wide range of poetry and poets; that i am inspired by and interact with diverse poetry, poets and poetics on infinite levels of engagement.

What’s your chapbook about?

i read this question as “What kinds of poems are in the book?” As always, there is an eclectic range, but i honestly chose the poems based on the publisher’s descriptions and preferences, as much as i could, since “request” started as an entry in a chapbook contest. The poems are: quirky, suggestive; political critiques, love poems, reflective quiet poems, and 1 – 2 very long ones, and several haiku too. The process was to read through recent poems and “simply” choose those that were most finished, that fit the publisher’s criteria, and that worked well (style and content) together. Most of the poems were later included in my latest book, 65 poems.

If you have written more than one chapbook, could you describe each of them in chronological order?

it’s like this (1980), the first chapbook, contains some of my first published and most favorite poems, reflecting the context of the lesbian-feminist communities of Los Angeles of that time.

a hunger for moonlight (2006) is a book of re-emergence, written and produced after a difficult time in my life when i felt my identity erased . . . except that of poet. The poems in a hunger. . .  are in part, about a kind of celebratory re-birth.

Describe your writing practice or process for your chapbook. Do you have a favorite prompt or revision strategy? What is it?

Since 1980, i have published eight additional books of poetry using essentially the  same writing process. For example, i always keep a small journal and a pen with me, and in recent years, a smartphone with a writing app. i write at least one poem a day, sometimes several, and when it is time for the next book, i go back through and do *hard* editing, as i choose poems for their relationship to a chosen theme and their readiness. My major revision strategy is to eliminate excess words (prepositions, auxiliary words, gerunds – HA!) and to focus on the poem’s intended impact – humorous, descriptive, playful, satirical, etc. HOWEVER, i long for the more disciplined approach of a set time (maybe 2 hours) daily for writing. That’s one of my New Year’s Resolutions . . . so far, not kept  . . .  😦

How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your chapbook? What was your titling process for individual poems in the chapbook?

The poems in request were arranged based on rhythm, flow and juxtaposition. The titling process – sometimes the hardest part – depends on each poem’s contents. In this instance, i wanted brevity, one word, and a connection to one of the best performance poems, in my humble opinion, in the book.

To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?

Dan Nowak designed the book, inside and out. i suggested cover images, but i am glad he ignored them, since i like the simplicity of his choice better, both front and back. (Included here, below) That was refreshing, since i get real OCD-ey and proprietary about all aspects of my work.

Is there a question you wish you would have been asked about your chapbook? How would you answer it?

Yes: what, if anything, would you change about your chapbook(s)?

ANSWER: i had my own artwork (sketches) in the first book, so i wish i could have included some in the next two as well, or maybe, photographs in request.

What are you working on now?

This interview. (Smile.) As soon as this is done, or at least starting sometime in the next week, i will be working on two new books of poetry, one for a contest and the other, my next book of poetry (for April).

What question would you like to ask future writers featured at Speaking of Marvels?

What and how do you conceptualize your audiences and ways to involve them in the poetry?

What would you do differently next time in the writing, editing, publishing, or promotion process?

Since i am also a performance poet, i would emphasize the performance or theatrical aspect more. As for promotion – i would / will concentrate more on this aspect. i tend to focus on the artistic aspects to the neglect of the business aspects.

Did you read straight through your chapbook out loud during the revision process or while finalizing revisions?

i am always hearing and reading my poems “out loud” since orality or the sound of the poem, the sound of the poem in my voice, is a major component of the overall composition and presentation.

What kinds of writing (comics, dictionaries, magazines, novels, etc.) that aren’t poetry help you to write poetry? 

Novels.  Especially sci fi (Octavia Butler), fantasy, murder mysteries, and horror.

Who do you most hope will read your chapbook?

A wide, inclusive range of people – individuals and groups.

Did you set out with the intention of writing a chapbook? Does your chapbook follow a clear arc?

With request, i certainly did. i set out to win that contest and although i did not, the book was still published.

Does your family read your chapbook? Or are they waiting for you to write a novel?

Yes, my family reads my poetry or at least, some members do and no, they know i am and always have been, a poet. They ask when my next performance is or where is the next book. That is very gratifying, in fact.

What do you wish you had been told as a writer?

i wish i had been told to find and keep a writer’s support group at all times.

What inspires you? What gets you to the page?

What inspires me . . .  my backyard, leaves falling, the rain, clouds, mountains, little children; injustices perpetrated by psycho-males and countries against wimmin (women); crimes against “humanity,” crimes against the environment, mountains (did i say mountains?); travel, road trips, memories & desires, sunrise, sunset . . . what inspires me? Everything, and nothing.

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doris davenport is an Educator / Writer / Literary & Performance Poet from Northeast GA with a Ph.D. in African American literature from the University of Southern California. She has published nine books of poetry, articles, reviews and an essay in the recently re-published classic anthology, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color  4/e  2015 (eds. G. Anzaldua & C. Moraga, 1981). As some people believe in money, love, religion, or sex, doris still believes in the transformative power and magic of mountains, friendship, art, & excellence.

*

it’s like this (digital reissue)

request

brief performance video  

interview by Alexis Gumbs on The Feminist Wire

*

Request (in 3 versions)

Shimi. Shimi. Pretend i
am a pole, please, sinuously wrap
your lithe body slowly around,
around and around
me.

*

Request (again, shouted)

Shimi. SHIMI. (Pretend) i
am a pole, please, sinuously wrap
your body slowly around,
mine.

*

Supplication or Supplicant

Long afterwards, realized
a better title than mere
“Request” for our Shimi to
treat me like a pole & wrap her
thighs, particularly, around my
body. Supplicant but that bus
pulled off, way up past New York by now
still there are others . . .

O Universe, be my Shimi
enwrap me in your MA’AT
divined purpose until we
both shimmer & glow, satisfy &
grow as One and
still i want

an iPhone 5, s.

*

At Home Now (northeast GA)

pecans ripen
apples become wine (again)

davenport

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2 thoughts on “doris davenport 

  1. dorissima, you have a chapbook! Why didn’t you let me know? I’ll be ordering it, you bet. I’ve one coming in late May from Wind Pub., so I’ll send you a copy. Maybe a joint reading at City Lights? Thanks to Will for this post. He’s a fabulous young poet. We are fabulous old(er) poets.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this interview. The voice of Doris Davenport, puts you right in front of her…as if you were there. Very honest and refreshing.

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