Hello everyone, Ezra here with my début post on AEMNYC. I’m excited to be a part of the team and for the premier post, I did an interview with artist and Tucson Poetry Festival Executive Director Teré Fowler-Chapman. I met Teré online, when I was looking for spoken word poets to perform for a fundraiser. Seeing her live was the confirmation I needed to know that I was witnessing a star, the future, energy that I wanted to be around.
“My visions can’t be rocked like concrete, and I feel like anything is possible like in cartoons. It’s always felt that way.” – Teré Fowler-Chapman
What inspires you as a writer?
I guess the thing that inspires me right now is culture. The way we live as a culture, how we live in a culture. I try to pull poetry out of every day experiences. I think it was Nikky Finney who said that poetry is hiding and our jobs as poets is too find it.
What goes through your mind when you’re creating?
My mind is the creator when I am creating. I am not present during the crafting of poems, the blueprint of an event, or pieces of work. I don’t really feel a stream of consciousness it’s like a different realm where I am living against the paper, and the words are consuming me. It’s quiet and loud and it’s soft and bold, it’s everything happening but feels like nothing at all.
Are you currently working on new material?
Yes currently I am working on a new series I am temporarily calling the 8Eight. It is the bus I take to get to the school I teach at.
Can you tell me a little bit about the bus poems you’ve written or are in the process of writing?
Sure, I feel like the bus system in Tucson is the veins of the city, and the people are the blood that’s flowing to keep this city alive. That specific bus carries so many different walks of life at once, it tells a story of hope, exhaustion, rebirth, growth. The poems are on the bus, I am just pulling them off and on to page.
Where do you expect poetry to be in 10 years?
In ten years? Exactly where it is suppose to be. Under street lamps, shoved in someone’s back pockets, resting in the libraries and on the tip of our tongues, folded up in our hearts. Poetry will always be here, it’ s a spiritual form of art that was here long before us, and will be long after us. It’s the existence of actual poems that I question.
What would your biography be called?
You know I don’t know. I have toyed and tossed this title around a bit “A Sketch of Concrete.” I say this because when I was five my mom was filling one of those about me posters for my class when I was younger, and asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told her a cartoon. She had to sit and explain to me why I couldn’t be one, so I said okay then a sidewalk.
I think in some ways I have become just that. My visions can’t be rocked like concrete, and I feel like anything is possible like in cartoons. It’s always felt that way.
As a high school teacher, has that effected the direction of your writing at all?
It hasn’t necessarily effected the direction, but it has impacted the power of my words. I learn fearlessness everyday from my students. They are all so brave, just so brave. Witnessing that every single day, gives a certain power behind your pen and push in your work.
If you could collaborate with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Jean-Michel Basquiat, I would love to run through notebooks with SAMO in person. Pour poetry and paint all over kitchen cabinets. He was a revolutionary and he fought for what he believed in through art, that’s the type of people I want to work with. The type of people that use their rage to create chaos on canvas and spark intellectual conversations about change.
What’s next for Teré Folwer-Chapman?
You would have to ask the universe, I am just happy to be alive this morning.
Below is a short film I directed of the Tucson Poetry Festival with a narration/poem by Teré.