A while back, I was scrolling through Instagram and found an incredibly thoughtful poem about how writing made this one particular writer feel. I thought that it was such a valid concept, in fact one that I’ve never asked in my interviews ever -- up until recently. To be able to express one’s self through the act of scribing poetry is one that will genuinely leave an infinite well of emotion which completely ensconces the individuals creative process. The Poet I am discussing is none other than Kris Duncan aka @poetica.ex.machina, Kris’s work SCREAMS to me – as she does not mince her words or pussyfoot around subjects that may otherwise be considered utterly soul wrenching and quite difficult. That’s the beauty of the work, Kris does not shy away – just goes for it. And for better or worse the sentiment tends to hit you hard like nails being pounded directly into your left ventricle. Literally allowing your body to radiate goosebumps.
RMMW: Have you ever been creatively blocked? If yes, how did you overcome it?
KD: Many times, over the years (including right now!), with the longest period being about eight years. That was a hard time for me, to not be able to write. If I'm creatively blocked, I try to give myself some grace, time, and patience. It's scary, as a creator, not to create. To me, it feels like I'm missing one of the critical senses. I feel incomplete when I can't write. Practically speaking, when I'm blocked, I try to write from word prompts. I listen to music, read poetry that inspires me, try new subjects to write about. Sometimes, though, even that doesn't help and so, I sit back and just let it happen. I've been writing long enough that I trust it will come. The good stuff can't be rushed. I'll hit the creative vein again and I'll discover something new about myself and voice will have evolved. Creative blocks can be a gift if you have the patience and trust to get through them.
RMMW: We all have an inner critic; how do you contend with yours?
KD: I made peace a long time and many literary mag rejections ago that my work may not be considered critically "good". That's ok. The truth is, I love most of what I write. I go back and read pieces and I'm immediately taken back to the moment that inspired the poem. The story I can tell with a poem is so much more robust than any photograph I can capture. There's just more emotional data in a poem. So, when I start to get insecure about whether or not something that I wrote is crap (and there's plenty of that), I remind myself that it doesn't matter. The intent isn't to please anyone but myself and to capture a moment that meant something to me. If it's "good" or relatable or can touch someone else, that is SUCH a wonderful bonus. But it's not necessary. It just has to be good enough for me.
RMMW: Do you have any artist rituals before starting a new piece?
KD: I write using the notes app on my phone and weirdly, I put in earbuds even if I'm not listening to music. Something about wearing them makes me feel insulated and gets me in the space to write. Weird, I know...but true.
RMMW: Because of you, I've started to ask writers, something I'm going to ask you as well... How does writing make you feel?
KD: Aha! It's a good question!! Writing makes me feel...primitive. As if I'm connecting to something eternal and bigger than myself that so many have connected to before me. It makes me feel powerful. The written word has had such an impact on me, to think that I have made an impact on others is mind blowing. I'm very lucky that I get read and hear tangible evidence of how my words have affected people. I consider that the greatest gift of using social media as a publishing platform. It makes me feel humble. Sometimes all I have are words and I don't use them well. When I DO use them well and make something beautiful, I'm humbled and grateful for the gift.
RMMW: You're a very emotive writer, where does the inspiration for your pieces come from?
KD: Most of what I write comes from real experience and relationships. It's a tough road sometimes because I push myself to be really honest and vulnerable when I write, and sometimes that means revealing things about myself that I'm not proud of or I'm working on. But I feel like it's important to do. Sometimes the most private and specific pieces I write end up being the ones that touch the most people. It's incredible to realize that, as isolated as I feel in that moment, I'm not alone. And that gives me the courage to keep being real and honest.
RMMW: Do you have any writing quirks?
KD: Ugh...yes. I HATE not finishing a poem in one sitting. I can do it, but I can always tell the lack of continuity in the emotion and tension of the piece. It drives me nuts! I'm also a muse-driven writer. Muses are REAL. I've had one for almost three years now and his time is waning. It's time to find a new one and freshen things up a bit. Problem is that muses are hard to come by so I end up writing experimentally or from a place of "discipline" rather than inspiration when I'm not feeling tapped into the vein of creativity.
RMMW: Usually writers like to experiment with various art mediums, do you? Which ones?
KD: I'm an avid photographer. Photos are another way to tell stories. I also make shadow boxes.
RMMW: Do you feel social media hinders or helps writers?
KD: Both! It helps writers by getting their content out to an audience that they otherwise wouldn't be able to. Previously, if you weren't published or didn't put out your own chapbooks, your work didn't get seen. Social media helps you build an audience and a brand and, to some degree, eliminate the middleman. You're in charge of your story and creative content. That being said, social media comes with the pressure to create on-demand and constantly. You fight to stay relevant as audiences wax and wane. That's hard and it can feel soul crushing. There's a science to social media that adds a layer to creativity that isn't always fun. Also, there are so many really talented people out there, it's hard to get ahead. There isn't a lot of rhyme or reason to who blows up and who doesn't. I know poets who are in the hundreds of followers who should be represented by agents and distributed by publishing houses. You want more for them, but the algorithm or the formula just isn't working for them.
RMMW: What do you enjoy most about reading the work of Poets via Instagram Lives both from your own account and Yellow Penguin NYC?
KD: I feel so honored to be able to read people's work. That they trust me with their words. I enjoy that the most. I enjoy giving words life that have previously only lived in the poet's head. A lot of times, when I read, it's the first time a poet has heard their work out loud. It's exhilarating to be able to give them that gift.
RMMW: What is your favourite theme to explore throughout your work?
KD: Loss. Heartache. Being bad at love. It's not that I love experiencing those things, it's just that it seems to come naturally to me. A long time ago, at my first open mic reading ever, the owner of the club told me that I had a very Buddhist way of writing, in bringing beauty to pain. I honed that skill intentionally throughout my writing career. I'm careful to honor pain the best way I can.
RMMW: Who are your favourite writers to read?
KD: @misguidedivy @the.saint.atlas, @nataliaxvela, @vayouking. They are all brilliant writers and I learn from them every time I read their work.
RMMW: Do you ever listen to music as you scribe? If yes, who?
KD: I do! I wrote "Hello, Beautiful" entirely listening to an artist called Ron Pope. He inspires me like no other musician or writer. I strive to tell stories as simply and quietly as he does. I also listen to Daughter, Tori Amos, Dermot Kennedy and a host of other musicians. I have everything on my playlist from the Mamas and the Papas to Ludicris to Billy Eilish.
RMMW: If you had a superpower what would it be?
KD: Hands down, shape shifting. I want to know what it's like to run powerfully like a horse, fly like a bird, etc. Plus, it would be fun to impersonate someone else. I promise, though, I'd only use my powers for good.