I had the privilege of meeting Duriel Harris during the festival. She is an extremely talented poet, and a very nice person. I enjoyed both her presentation, and her conversation, and am very grateful that such a busy lady took the time to answer some questions for our blog. I am also including a question that she answered during our ride to the airport. It concerns how she became a poet.

Q: For Expert writers – are you writing/hoping anyone’s going to read – what’s your relationship to accessibility for larger audience vs. small nice audience.

A: I write with an imagined present and future public in mind. In the initial phase I compose without the awareness of an outside audience (anyone other than myself). Returning to the work in revision—re envisioning it—I consider how the work might communicate to and/or create experience for others. I generally imagine someone intelligent and thoughtful, someone willing to enter the space of poetry/language art, someone who wants to encounter other human beings.

Q: What do you know now about writing that you wish you knew when you were starting out?

A: I wish I had been aware of the degree to which relationships with other poets mattered for my own edification and for publication.

Q: Would you share some specific techniques and useful habits to “get your writing going” to get inspiration?

A: I freewrite quite a bit. I also read work by other writers. I’m most inspired by good/great writing so when courting inspiration I read until I find poems, stanzas, lines, phrases that teach me something, that are unexpected and draw me into a way of thinking/experiencing that I did not anticipate, that take me out of myself and encourage me to reconsider what I know and/or believe about a subject or a mode of being. Sometimes (less often than I should) I go for a walk or bike ride and take in the natural (and not so natural world). I often find inspiration from film so at times I Netflix binge.

Q: How do you feel about collaborative work? Do you do it? Do you rule it out? Collaborative novels and collaborative poetry books?

A: Collaboration is exciting. I most often like to collaborate across disciplines though as a poet I would like to collaborate with a fiction writer and/or a nonfiction writer to interrogate and push at/against the boundaries of genre. My most recent collaborations have been with a video artist and a master of traditional Japanese music. Thrilling.

Q: What do you do to self-promote/market your work?

A: I tend to share my work publicly to market it. I am also now cultivating an email campaign list and updating interested folk via email blasts. A website is also on the “to do” list. I’m on my 5th web designer/developer, though. I need to really focus on that project soon.

Q: How do you protect your work, do you copyright it or? How and when?

A: I tend to register copyright for poems closer to manuscript stage. Music and sound recordings, however, I register as soon as they’re reasonably complete/finished.

Q: How did you decide to become a poet?

Answer written down after the fact by April Decker: Said she wanted to be an engineer in college, but had a great deal to work through and get out. She started writing and acting, published some poems in a feminist campus paper and one that centered upon Black issues. When it came time to make a choice, Duriel thought that acting would force her to depend upon others and was difficult because of the race factor, not so much in getting jobs afterwards as in the classes and work at college. She felt that writing would give her more control and freedom of expression.

Duriel received excellent reviews on her first book, and is happy with her decision to wait, and not publish her Master’s thesis, which she wrote at 23. She stated that she is very happy with this decision, as she feels that her work has benefited from added time and experience. This way, she does not have to worry about early pieces floating around that she might not now want to be part of the public record.

Duriel stated that she became interested in performance art because there is only so much a poet can do with any given poem–only so many times it can be reworked before it starts to become boring. Although that poem might still hold significance for other readers, Duriel feels that the work must also retain immediacy and significance for its creator.

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