q&a with desireé dallagiacomo
If you’re in Sydney and you don’t have anything to do this coming Saturday night (23rd July) then why not tickle your cultural and artistic sensibilities with a little bit of inspirational poetry? Award-winning writer, poet, performer and teacher Desireé Dallagiacomo is coming to Sydney as part of Word Travels for a workshop and performance at a secret location in Sydney’s The Rocks. For info about Word Travels click here.
Desireé is an inspiring talent and is currently the lead teaching artist at Forward Arts in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she continues her passion for arts into the realm of education. I had a chat with her about her career so far and I believe she will be a delight to see. If you need still need more inspiration after the Q&A below then check out some YouTube videos of her by clicking here and here.
Could you tell us about your career so far in poetry and arts?
Currently, I am the program director and lead teaching artist for Forward Arts, a literary arts nonprofit based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA. Although that is my full-time job, I do travel the US and Canada (and now Australia!) reading poems and teaching workshops. I do lots of work with colleges, universities, and youth organizations in the US. About 50% of my time is spent teaching poetry and spoken word in classrooms and with community groups. Before this, I studied creative writing and women & gender studies at the University of New Orleans. While in New Orleans, I also taught poetry and spoken word. In my time as a student, I placed 3rd with Slam New Orleans at the National Poetry Slam. I also placed 3rd at both the Individual World Poetry Slam and the Women of the World Poetry Slam. I’ve published two chapbooks with Next Left Press (based in Louisiana, USA). Looking back, I have always been a writer whether I knew it or not. I was always very different than the kids around me. It was really difficult for me to make friends when I was young (also still is TBH), and so I created things. As a small child, I would cut up paper into hundreds of tiny pieces. I like to consider that my first creation. I was in band and choir in middle and high school, and then I began writing songs. From there, I wrote poems. As I grew up, I began to enjoy writing more and more. When I moved to Baton Rouge when I was 19 (I’m originally from northern California), I found a community that told me I was a good writer, so I kept writing. From there, I began to compete in poetry slams and submit poems to journals and things. My work started to appear on a very popular poetry YouTube channel, Button Poetry, and it kind of took off from there, I think.
What inspired you most to become a poet – or did it just happen in a happy accident?
I get asked this all the time, and I never have a good answer. I think I have always been a poet, so it never felt like I became one. It just kind of felt like ‘oh, this is where I belong. This is what my home feels like.’ I think I just finally felt like I fit in somewhere, and so I stayed.
What do you enjoy most about teaching youth?
Oh, God. What a huge question. I love the relationships I build with the young people, and the relationships they build with each other. They begin to explore parts of their narratives and identities that they have never explored before. They begin to become themselves, and it’s a really remarkable thing to be a part of. It pushes me to be more honest. It takes me out of my head and my ego, because the young people I work with really write their hearts out. They tell stories that they have been waiting their whole lives to tell. To experience a young person overcome their fears, some they’ve been harboring their entire lives, is indescribable. Within youth spoken word is where some of the hardest work is being done, and it really reminds me how life changing poetry and spoken word can be.
What have been the biggest challenges you have encountered as an artist/poet?
Doing justice to the stories of the people I love. I write heavily about family, and I am always scared that I am going to mess it up. I’m scared that I am going to present a skewed image of them. I have also experienced quite a bit of visibility, and dealing with that has been difficult. I will meet people that have seen every video of me, that own both my books, that have heard me read many times, and they will feel a very deep connection with my work and that’s a lot of pressure! It’s hard to balance my visibility with my real, un-visible life.
What do you enjoy most about travelling and performing your poetry around the world?
I get to travel and do what I love. It’s an excuse to travel. It’s really remarkable and inspiring to hear the work of other writers all over the place. Every region has their own sound, and I very much enjoy experiencing each unique poetry scene. Dialects, narratives, writing styles, voice all of those are affected by region and location, and that’s so cool to see! I also get to send my mother postcards from everywhere I go, and she is just over the moon to receive them. People in my family haven’t traveled much, so they always get really excited when I go anywhere and so that’s really awesome.
Do you still get nervous before stepping up to a mic?
Oh, gosh, every time. I am a pretty socially awkward person, and I always feel like I’m doing it wrong whatever it is. So I always feel like I am not the person that should be the featured reader, so I’ve often got to overcome that. After each reading, I am always so relieved that I didn’t make a fool of myself. I also try to push my content, so I’m kind of always trying to make myself uncomfortable, and I’m always trying to be more honest, and so that makes me really nervous.
What advice do you have for aspiring poets/writers/artists?
Keep going. Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep listening. Keep performing. Read and listen to as many poets as you can, and then you will develop your voice. Don’t be scared to try weird things. Push yourself. Write funny things, write sad things, write moving things, write simple things, write in form, write in different genres. Whatever you do, just keep writing. We all suck when we start, the only way to get better is to keep going.
Word Travel Presents: Desireé Dallagiacomo (USA)
Saturday 23 July, 2016
Location: Word Travels, The Rocks NSW – Full location details disclosed after booking