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June 2022 Feature: Anastacia-Reneé

Award-winning author and former Seattle Civic Poet, Anastacia-Reneé has received residencies from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, VONA, Ragdale, Mineral School, and The New Orleans Writers Residency.

Anastacia-Reneé (She/They)is a queer writer, educator, interdisciplinary artist, speaker, and podcaster. She is the author of(v.)(Black Ocean) and Forget It (Black Radish), Here in the (Middle) of Nowhere, and Side Notes from the Archivist forthcoming from Amistad (an imprint of HarperCollins). They were selected by NBC News as part of the list of "Queer Artist of Color Dominate 2021's Must-See LGBTQ Art Shows." Anastacia-Reneé was a former Seattle Civic Poet (2017-2019), Hugo House Poet-in-Residence (2015-2017), Arc Artist Fellow (2020), and Jack Straw Curator (2020). Her work has been anthologized in: Teaching Black: The Craft of Teaching on Black Life and Literature, Home is Where You Queer Your Heart, Furious Flower Seeding the Future of African American Poetry, Afrofuturism, Black Comics, And Superhero Poetry, Joy Has a Sound, Spirited Stone: Lessons from Kubota’s Garden, and Seismic: Seattle City of Literature. Her work has appeared in, Hobart, Foglifter, Auburn Avenue, Catapult, Alta, Torch, Poetry Northwest, A-Line, Cascadia Magazine, Hennepin Review, Ms. Magazine, and others. Renee has received fellowships and residencies from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, VONA, Ragdale, Mineral School, and The New Orleans Writers Residency. Follow Anastacia-Reneé on anastacia-renee.com and on Instagram.




Mothering

by Anastacia-Reneé


i.

i never did think

of motherhood as an

act of rebellion (but)

i wanted so desperately

to be a rebel

to throw my children

across my breast

& run with arrows in my cheeks

picking off any

dead thing trying to take

my kids to hell

piercing any rotting hand

wrapping round their

dangling ankles

rubbing salt around

all their edges

circling every patchy

part of kin


ii.

if i had known the body

i spit out of my vagina

was not big enough to

hold your dreams

i certainly would have

stolen pieces of the sky

& melted them down

as gold to give you the

blinging life your little

heart beat for


what a gracious shooting

star you've become to

let me see you born again

your lipstick writing

"do you see me" all over

the fucking town


iii.

you took the talk so well

we made eye to eye contact

over macaroni & cheese

all your anxiety curdling up

around your elbows

all my cheesy words melting

around your hot brain

we heavily analyzed a song

from my 1988 teen mixed tape

& sang like a made up

rugged 80’s b-ban

fuck the police

but you were barely an 8th

grader & i was mom so

instead we said

“eff the police” & we laughed

so hard you said your neck

hurt & when you got to a point

where you laughed so hard

you said mama, mama i can’t breathe

what fun times they were

how good it felt to send you

off into the magical darkness

of your safe bedroom

to know that you’d be

both happy & sleepy

all in one shot & no residue of pain





Look What I Made For You

by Anastacia-Reneé


i recall

inside my little me

how many times

with loving child hands

i made

dandelion necklaces

& matching bracelets

for my mother

i presented them with

sweat & as an announcement

me yelling tall

though shorter than the blades of grass


mommy look what i made for you

look what i made for you

look what i made for you

look what i made for you

& she took them so lovingly

& never hesitated to put them on

& if they didn't fit she'd take them

apart remake them so that they would


i recall

inside my little me

my third grade teacher

lip pursing so matter-of-factly

the words blowing out of her lipstick-ed

mouth like a skinny cigarette

dandelions are not flowers

dandelions are weeds & they destroy

all the good flowers yank them up whenever

you see them so the rest

of the flowers can really grow


& just like that inside my little me

i thought i had cursed my mother

after learning the word curse from

a walt disney character


& then i wondered how many times i

cursed my mother

how many times did i put the noose

around her neck

& the shackle around her feet

look look look

how many times

how many times


how many times

do we suffer even

when the innocent

are not to blame




Videos of Anastacia-Reneé's Exhibition, (Don't be Absurd) Alice in Parts at FRYE Art Museum. Shared with the artist's permission.



The Interview


Your work as a multidisciplinary artist is deeply rooted in text. Do you build a performance or exhibition from the page out? Describe your process.


Thank you. No one has ever asked me this question! I pour myself into the writing. When I notice that I am gravitating towards lengthier pieces of work, suites, or series and revisiting similar themes extensively, that’s when I say to myself “Perhaps this needs more attention and should live as a mixed-media installation or play,” then I ask the piece what it wants. The text then becomes an inhabitant of a stage or art space that I build my work in.


Your exhibition and performance (Don’t be Absurd) Alice in Parts, is an explosive immersion into the interior and exterior life of Black women existing in everyday oppressive systems and experiencing the physical consequences of that experience. It’s tangible and unavoidable. What do you hope your audience will take away from the work?

Alice is me. Alice is you. Alice is the put together and seemingly perfect woman “slaying it” in the boardroom or academia. Alice is the nonbinary person trying to get out of dark places using Audre Lorde and other writing ancestors as light. Alice is someone's preteen. Alice is the next door neighbor you never verbally speak to but throw a hand up at. Alice is the critical but fun auntie. Alice is your ex-best friend. Alice is a member of your sacred sister circle. That is the first thing I hope audience members take from (Don’t Be Absurd) Alice in Parts. I also want audience members who are not from the BIPOC community to “see” firsthand what many black women are moving through in the world on a daily, and hourly basis. I want to give statistics, social media posts and book club conversations an up close and in-person essence to experience. I also wanted Black women to feel seen, heard and understood though Alice does not represent all Black, her life experiences are shared by other Black women. Speaking for myself, I have been in very few spaces which center the multilayered experiences of Black women. I want deeper exploration as it relates to the systemic gentrification of black bodies.

I understand you’ll be moving to New York soon. You’ve lived in Seattle for many years as a fixture in the arts and literary community. Why the transition now?

It’s true, after living in Seattle Washington for the last 16 years, my wife and I are geographically relocating to New York! My wife was born and raised in Mount Vernon

New York and their family is there. I have been a frequent visitor to New York and

many literary community engagements have allowed me to be semi-bicoastal; however, in addition to those reasons I’ve been sitting with “knowing” that I need to expand my creative practices and visions to include an alternative energy. It’s been an “in process” thought for years but only recently have I decided to make the leap. I will miss lush-green-coffee-seen Seattle, and my child and my friends very much. In New York, I hope to build stronger community ties and make new connections that will push me to create, excavate and interrogate new multi-genre writing, art, and theater. I want more freedom to “play” and experiment as a mid-career writer and a somewhat late-stage emerging installation artist. I grew up watching “Fame” and I am a late bloomer. I am ready to dance on a few taxis and direct a flash mob.

You have two new projects forthcoming from Amistad (an imprint of HarperCollins), Here in the (Middle) of Nowhere, and Side Notes from the Archivist. Can you give us a sneak peek into these projects?

Sneak peek indeed! First of all, I am thrilled! I am so honored that Jennifer Baker (Senior Editor Amistad Books–HarperCollins) invested her time, energy, and expertise in me. I feel so honored to be a part of the Amistad team and she and Francesca Walker (Editorial Assistant–HarperCollins) have given my new work a safe and exciting place to live and grow.

Side Notes from the Archivist (HarperCollins March 2023)is a poetry heavy book with emphasis on memoir, nostalgia, the body, and patriarchy from the archivist's point of view. Here in the Middle of Nowhere (HarperCollins 2024) is experimental prose with heavy emphasis on a “world” with vibrant characters and overlapping stories that all converge “(Here).”

What advice would you give to those interested in building a diverse literary/performance career?


Ten Things:

  1. You are on your own path so don’t compare yourself to others and their careers or paths.

  2. You may not always have a mentor-type, to “show you the way” but don’t be afraid to ask peers, colleagues, or folks/x you admire questions about aspects of your literary career.

  3. Embrace doubt. Self-doubt is part of the process. When you doubt that you are good enough, face it and say, “Hello doubt. I hear you but I’ve got work to do.”

  4. Don’t be afraid to edit and create new work while letting go of old work. If this is your career, of course you will write! You don’t need to hoard your own work. Make room for new ideas and new work.

  5. Know the difference between admiring and being positively influenced by someone's work and absorbing their work or style as your own work.

  6. Become a keen observer and frequent participant of all things creative: Read tons of books. Watch documentaries, Go to art museums. Travel. Learn a new language. Color. Paint. Listen to different types of music. Play an instrument. Dance. Cook.

  7. Less talking about writing and more writing.

  8. Know that some days thinking about what you’ll write, making lists or outlines counts as writing too.

  9. Stop waiting until you think you know it all and have done all the work before participating in “writerly” things. You are a writer whether you’ve completed a book or not. Participate or submit!

  10. Practice spiritual and earthly self-care and rest often.

10.5 Find an accountability buddy.


If you find yourself in a creative rut, what do you do to get out of it?

Every week I allow myself to become “obsessed” with topics. Preferably random subjects. For example: How mulch is made, the life cycle of dragonflies, or the most recent new creatures discovered in the ocean. These “obsessions” are kept in a journal full of vivid details, sometimes sketches and copious notes regarding my research “detours”. This way when I feel stuck or stagnant I have a whole world to turn to and I can pick and choose my topic and even use the material in new work I create.


When you hear “joy” what do you think of?


When I hear the word “joy” I think of my own steady heartbeat because for me I always have joy. No one can give it to me or take it away from me. What I work on is creating more moments of happiness, peace, and fun.


In addition to your forthcoming publications, are there any other projects you’re working on?


I’m writing a new play (think A Christmas Carol meets Butler, Simone and Lorde) , a series of photography and art around the subject of “chosen” family and “chosen” enemies, season four of The Deep End With Friends Podcast with co-star Reagan Jackson, and always, a book of hybrid work clearing its throat in my ear.


How can people support you right now?


Thank you for asking this question. People can support me by investing in other Black women and queer black women who are working hard! Buy their books, attend their plays, listen to their podcasts, collect their art, and fund their grants. They can email me if they are interested in taking one of my virtual classes, manuscript consultation or $30/30 monthly writing prompts @ anastaciarwriter@gmail.com


Name another Black woman writer people should read?


How much time do I have for this question? :) Just one?

Lorraine Hansberry (playwright). I feel her work as a writer is often understated or overlooked.


All which I feel I must write has become obsessive. So many truths seem to be rushing at me as the result of things felt and seen and lived through. Oh, what I think I must tell this world.

-Lorraine Hansberry




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