Inseam: Dominique Christina
We are thrilled and incredibly honored to introduce our interview series with the award winning slam poet Dominique Christina. She is a prominent figure in not only the poetry community but also her activism is significant on a global sphere. She holds five international poetry slam titles, has earned two masters degrees and authored three books. At the bottom of the page you can view her professional bio, a link to her website and video samples of her work.
In this interview, Dominique discusses what her art, activism, identity as a black woman mean to her and how these things shape her work. She also discusses the tyranny of the Trump Regime and the ways in which one can resist in their work and life. She currently has her books available for purchase on her site.
Q: You’re an incredibly accomplished poet and author. What part of your career would you say you’re most proud of so far?
A: I’m not sure. I suppose it’s edifying to be published. I suppose I am proud that my voice is in the world and that it’s an unwavering voice; that I am asked to offer it again and again and that I enter rooms full of strangers who want to hear what I have to say. That always amazes me. I’m proud to be able to operate in the full utility of my gifts. I’m a black woman. To be unkilled and out loud is miracle enough for me.
Q: What is most important to you about your work?
A: That the work is ancestral, and urgent, and insistent. It is an epitaph for all of the things my grandmother could not say, and her mother before her. It is provocation and witness and that is important to me.
Q: As far as your writing process goes, where does a poem begin for you?
A: I don’t come with an agenda. I trust the process and the process is a bit like falling in the dark. I never know what I am going to say. I just know there’s something waiting for me to say it. I will sit in front of my computer for hours just waiting. When the first line comes I typically have no idea what it means or where it’s taking me. I then keep writing to chase down the meaning of that first line. It’s a ritual. And with ritual you cannot predict the outcome.
Q: Your work is incredibly vulnerable and honest as you look pain, love, tragedy, injustice, and much more in the face and speak through it. Do you come to this ability naturally? or have you had to learn to grapple with these themes in your writing?
A: I am an accidental poet. I had no designs on being one. I made the whimsical choice to take a creative writing class in undergrad and it changed the trajectory of my life. I found myself lifting curses in the writing. I found myself telling on the bad men. I found myself accusing and condemning. I found myself naming all of my brokenness. I discovered that I couldn’t lie in the writing. I couldn’t hide and I couldn’t pretend. Whatever I was or was not was available to the craft. I didn’t anticipate that. But it happened and it forced me to operate with greater integrity and emotional literacy in my own life. I had to travel a great distance to get there but I would say writing requires unimpeachable bravery. That, is the least I can offer to the thing that saved my life.
Q: We are in incredibly turbulent and terrifying times. Recently, you tweeted,
”This isnt politics. Don't say shit to me about party loyalty or "Islamic terror." This is tyranny. Stop looking 4 a sanitized way to say it.
And that statement sums things up well. How are you orienting yourself to what’s ahead as a activist? As an artist? As a person?
A: I am fighting to remain human. I am resisting the urge to dissolve into cynicism and apathy. Trump is president and that fact had generated a great deal of trauma for a great many people. The artist’s job is to bear witness. To report. To announce. To defy. To rattle the cage. Where politicians lie, poets are here to interrupt rhetoric with the truth. To call the devil the devil to his face. I am tired of the culture of fear. I’m tired of folks normalizing and rationalizing. Language is important. It is a culture keeper. Don’t say “alt-right” when the performance of that word means white supremacy. Don’t say “feminazi” when you mean “unconquered woman.” Don’t degrade intellect by degrading language and thereby culture and reason and logic. I call Trump a tyrant because that is what he is. I intend to disrupt. I intend to hold all of us accountable to the world we are creating. If we want to see a radical shift in paradigm we must be willing to radically shift our thinking. Be wise where we were once unlearned. Be brave where we were once afraid. Be stealthy where we were clumsy. Be deliberate where we were unpracticed. I intend to practice these things for the rest of my life and when I’m gone I’ll dog their souls from the grave.
Q: How much capacity do you think poetry, and other forms of art, has for activism? What are the limitations of these things?
A: Art is activism. But it is more noun than verb. It can encourage action and inspire it but it is not in and of itself enough. Not in my view. I don’t intend to diminish the magic in art but I do mean to say it should serve to amplify that which we will do not that which we are afraid to do or have no means to do. Art is supernatural. Man is human. Art introduces man to his ability to perform his own miracles.
Q: What do you think is important for other artists or activists to keep in mind when it comes to intersectionality?
A: Identity is an ocean. So many things generate its activity. So much lies beneath. We are such complicated vast creatures. Made up of so many things. We are concepts negotiating constructs and that is always tricky, and messy. I am black. I am Latina. I am a woman. I am a survivor. I am a poet. I am queer. I am educated. I am many many things. They all intersect to create this version of my experience. There is no one way to perform any of the things on that list. As an artist if I am sensitive to one thing it should invite the awareness of many other things. If I am awake to those things it potentially makes others safer...and me too. Me too.
Q: What is most important to you about self care? What do you do for self care?
A: That it is impossible to do this work and not burn out or die out unless you are deliberate about paying attention to your own regeneration. That said, I suck at it. I’m really good at helping others strategize about how to do it for themselves but I am slow to respond to my own needs. I am working on it though...everyday...I promise. Gotta be here long enough to say “We won.”
DOMINIQUE CHRISTINA is an award-winning poet, author, educator, and activist. She holds five national poetry slam titles in four years, including the 2014 & 2012 Women of the World Slam Champion and 2011 National Poetry Slam Champion. Her work is greatly influenced by her family's legacy in the Civil Rights Movement and by the idea that worlds make worlds. Her poetry collections are: The Bones, The Breaking, The Balm: A Colored Girl's Hymnal, published by Penmanship Books, and They Are All Me, published by Swimming With Elephants Publishing. Her third book, This Is Woman's Work, published by SoundsTrue Publishing, is the radical exploration of 20 archetypal incarnations of womanness and the creative process.