Birthday Showcase on Nicole Hartley, By Rania M M Watts


During my time at the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation, I worked with numerous clients that had never felt comfortable in their own skin. Because, they knew on the inside that they were not living their truest life, most actually felt like liars.  Meaning, knowing that you may like members of the same sex but, being too afraid of the negative repercussions to come out.  For one, society back then was VERY guarded, it still is a little bit but -- thankfully there has been progress, regardless of how slow – it’s still progress.  The amount of fighting that the LGBTQ community has done, just to have fundamental rights is BEYOND tragic to me.  I’ve always stated many times through my writing that love is a birthright.  We can’t help who we love, we should be able to love whoever we want.

Nicole Hartley opened-up to me about her journey coming out in addition to the EXTREMELY thought provoking pieces that are part of her literary collection.  Nicole is very honest and expresses herself in such a pure manner – when I read her work all that’s left is distilled emotion -- at times VERY devastated fervour.

For more information on Nicole, check her out on Instagram @penguintalks29 . Oh, and by the way, Nicole’s re-edited version on Anchoring Me is currently priceless on Amazon.  Check it out you’ll be happy you did! I grabbed a copy this morning.  And, just one more little titbit – today is Nicole’s birthday, show her a little love please.

Without further ado my dialogue with Nicole…

RMMW: Have you ever been creatively blocked?  If yes, how did you overcome it?

NH: I do believe I'm am artist in every way. I love writing, that's my first love. But I also love painting and drawing. I can't say I have ever been completely blocked creatively. I have had periods when I can't write at all. So I didn't stress it. I just focused on my painting instead until the words were ready to come out again. As long as I'm being creative somehow, I'm ok.

RMMW: We all have to contend with an inner critic, how do you deal with yours?

NH: That's something I struggle with every day. I have found that staying busy helps, I'm often too busy or too exhausted to focus on that critic. I also try to believe my friends when they tell me the critic in me is an asshole. I'm grateful that I have so many incredible people in my life.

RMMW: Do you have any artist rituals before starting a new piece?

NH: No, not really. The words usually form in my mind for a few days until they figure themselves out. Then I can just feel them exploding out of me when they are ready.

RMMW: Why was it important for you to revamp Penguin Poetry NYC - to Yellow Penguin Poetry NYC?


NH: I changed a lot since I started it. My team changed. I wanted to change it to something that would fit who we are now.


RMMW: Tell us a little bit about Yellow Penguin Poetry NYC -- What's its origin story?

NH: I wanted to create a place where people felt heard. I was not supported for my writing when I was a kid and I really wish I had someone who told me that I'm good enough. So I created a place that would do that for other writers. Writers need that validation.

RMMW: Who is your favourite poet? And why?

NH: It might be cliché of me but I really love Charles Bukowski. I related to so many of his poems on a deep level. Sometimes it felt like he was looking into my soul and writing how I felt.

RMMW: How do you feel your poetry has evolved over the years?

NH: I think my poetry gets better every day. I am really inspired by all the poets on Instagram and I have so much to learn from them. The more I read, the more they inspire me, the better I get. I also think that I've learned how to accept myself and allow myself to be vulnerable. That really took my poetry to the next level.

RMMW: Why did you feel it was necessary to re-edit your poetry book Anchoring me?

NH: The first time I released the collection, I did it because I wanted my ex to read it. I was a mess and so were the pieces in the book. Its been about two years now. I've grown and changed so much. I was not proud of it. People kept asking me what happened with us. So I started fixing the pieces, I added a few that I never included because I was afraid. This time, it was no longer for her. Its for every person that has been through heartbreak. I want them to know that they aren't alone. That they can move on and heal, even a powerful love.

RMMW: Tell me about your collection? Where can patrons purchase your pieces?


NH: My collection will be available Amazon and kindle! It's a collection of poems that are written to an ex. The story of us will be told within the poems. The ex in the letters is genderless because heartbreak is universal. It's a relationship that really broke my heart for a long time. But I eventually found the closure I needed, and I want people to know that they can too.


RMMW: If someone is interested on become a curator or live reader and Yellow Penguin Poetry NYC what do they need to do?

NH: They can message me and we'll go from there! I am very picky about who I add on my team. But I'm definitely open.

RMMW: How did you select your current curatorial and reading live team?

NH: I trust my gut a lot. I choose people that I get a good vibe from. I choose people who are in it for the same reasons I am - to support writers and be there for the community.

RMMW: What's your favourite poem written by you?

NH: The final poem in my collection. It came from a very deep part of me and I am really proud of how it came out.

RMMW: Any forthcoming manuscripts you are planning on publishing in the near future?

NH: Yes! I'm almost finished with a novel that I'm hoping to release next year.

RMMW: What’s it about?

NH: A woman who loses her memory and wakes up in a perfect life she doesn't remember. It's a story about finding yourself.

RMMW: At what age did you come out? How did it feel?

NH: I was 28 and it was the scariest thing I've ever done. That year was the hardest of my life, I barely survived it.

But even though it was scary and painful. It was the first time in my life where things actually made sense.

RMMW: My daughter’s friends in the LGBTQ community were ridiculed for being gay or bi. What would you say to these kids to remain hopeful in an ignorant world?

NH: Being yourself is truly the hardest thing you will do. But stay strong. Eventually, you will learn to find better friends than you ever imagined you'd find. And all these people will seem dumb.

RMMW: Do you feel releasing the heart break you’ve experienced via writing would help most individuals who are struggling with similar issues?

NH: I think releasing my pain would definitely help people who are hurting the way I did. At least I really hope so. She is my twin flame, I truly believed I couldn't be happy without her. But I am. I want them to know they can be too.

RMMW: Do you believe one can die from a broken heart?

NH: I don't believe that. It is definitely one of the worst pains I felt. But if I had died, it would have been because I struggle with a mental illness. No one should ever have to carry the burden of someone else dying because their relationship ended.

RMMW: As an individual struggling with mental illness, how do you explain the rough days to your loved ones?
NH: I haven't figured that out completely. I usually keep to myself on those days which isn't a great idea. But luckily, the people that truly love me do notice and reach out.

RMMW: If you were to build a woman from scratch - who would be your ideal?

NH: I want someone that could keep up with me mentally, that's the most important part. Also someone that is patient, kind and smells incredible (I'm very big on scent). Someone with an incredible laugh. Someone honest and understanding.


RMMW: If you had a superpower what would it be?

NH: Teleportation! For sure. I have always wanted to run away. I've always felt trapped even when I'm happy. I wish I could be in a different city every day.

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