Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie’s poems “Rain," "Blaze,” and “Mama Haiku 2” were featured in issue #8 of Newtown Literary. She is the author of Karma’s Footsteps and Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation. Her work was the subject of a short film “I Leave My Colors Everywhere.” Read more from her at her website.
She interviews herself below, including links to her social media accounts:
Hi. I’m glad we’re getting a chance to talk. You were telling me recently that you don’t have much space for reflection these days. Can we talk about that and how it affects your writing?
Hey. I already love this. You cut right to the chase and I hate small talk! So, I have three daughters. They are 11, 9, and 1. Much of my movement these days revolves around them and their needs.
11, 9, and 1. Whoa. How do you get writing done?
Right now I don’t.
What is that like?
It’s fine and it’s weird because so much of my identity is connected to creating. I have to remind myself that the moon is not always full and that there’s a season for everything. I remind myself of this often.
This is true, but I think I’d go a little berserk if I didn’t write. You’re not writing anything?
I do write in my journal sometimes. That’s really important to me.
OK, OK, cool, so you do put pen to paper sometimes.
Yeah, but I’m stealing time then. See, I get strange(r) if I don’t have time to write, but what I’ve found is that if I don’t have any time to myself, things get haywire. I’ve had to get more serious about claiming time for myself. I might take pictures of trees in that private time, but I have to have that space. I also need to get better at asking for and accepting help so I can have that time.
So what might you tell artists who are parents?
Don’t rush yourself or force yourself to go to events or feel you have to be on social media or think you always have to “produce” something. Don’t think you’ll stop being relevant by being quiet and living your life.
That’s advice we could all use.
So you mentioned taking pictures of trees, and I notice you do a lot of that. Your Instagram feed is full of flowers. What’s up with that?
I love visual art. I’m not reading as much as I used to (my daughter will find strange things to eat in corners I thought I swept while I’m caught up in chapter 2). I surround myself with photography, and photos of fashion, textiles, architecture, interior design, and nature. Oh, and of course, music. Always always always music. Taking the pictures of flowers has to do with my constant quest for beauty, because the world is bizarre and I have to keep my inner world light. Nature helps me stay centered. We are bombarded by so much ugly. It’s a conscious act to see something pretty and share it.
That makes sense. You mentioned music. What are you listening to these days?
Solange’s A Seat at the Table. The J-Dilla Back to the Crib Mixtape. A lot of the songs A Tribe Called Quest sampled. That Spiritual Jazz Mix that’s floating around. Orisha music.
Can we talk a little about your most recent book Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation?
I love the book.
I feel like you shared so much in it. Is there anything you feel like you left out?
My gosh, yes. I wish I’d told Continuum that money is important. Financial literacy, savings, budgeting that sort of thing.
Oh! That’s surprising. I wasn’t expecting that.
Phife said it best: “Riding on the train with no dough sucks.”
I also realized that I left out all of my international experiences when my friend Malika Booker asked how I felt travel has influenced my work. So If I do a second version, I’ll include those things.
Are you satisfied with how the book is doing? I don’t feel like it got the attention I expected it to.
Well, you can’t really expect that sort of thing can you? You can wish for it.
Come on, you know how the machine works. You could be strategic. Take out ads, send out proofs, have promotion and marketing folks, get reviews, talk to the “right” people. You could have done that.
Maybe I should hire you to do that. Getting the book right was so much work, and I was in the last trimester of a very trying pregnancy. I was hoping the work would speak for itself. It still can. It does. You know the book was published independently and we didn’t do heavy marketing or promoting. If it wasn’t for Frank X. Walker writing a check, the book wouldn’t have even gotten published. On another note, much of the work that the poets I “grew up with” gets ignored but that’s because we don’t control anything. And I don’t do the networking thing so…yeah. I know how much work and love I put into the book so I trust it’ll go where it’s needed.
Yeah. Split This Rock put it on their Spectacular Books of 2015 list.
That meant and means so much to me. The feedback I’ve gotten from readers has been affirming. I think the book is slowly doing its thing. Quietly.
Like you right now?
Anything else you’d care to say before we close? I hear your baby crying.
Go see Queen of Katwe, and follow me on Instagram or Twitter. I’ve got some things I’m really excited about coming up in 2017.
I’m going to feed the baby now.
Goodbye and thank you.
Thank you. Be well.