Woven Odes: Adebe DeRango-Adem
In this instalment of our Woven Odes series celebrating National Poetry Month, we look to the uncharted territories of identity in Adebe DeRango-Adem's Terra Incognita (Inanna Publications). Hailed as a young Canadian author to watch by Canada's Parliamentary Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke, DeRango-Adem's collection troubles the idea of race as a fixed construct and strives to unearth the territory of those who cross borders—racially, ethnically, culturally and geographically.See more details below
In this instalment of our Woven Odes series celebrating National Poetry Month, we look to the uncharted territories of identity in Adebe DeRango-Adem's Terra Incognita (Inanna Publications). Hailed as a young Canadian author to watch by Canada's Parliamentary Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke, DeRango-Adem's collection troubles the idea of race as a fixed construct and strives to unearth the territory of those who cross borders—racially, ethnically, culturally and geographically. Terra Incognita achieves its aims through sparkling, clever turns of phrase – "If what fills you kills you/Then pray for gills" – hiding an urgent line of questioning about what it means for society to be "post-racial" when race itself is so mutable.
Read "Travel Tips", an excerpt from Terra Incognita below, and then check out our short interview with Adebe DeRango-Adem on her influences, inspirations, and how she settles down to write.
ALU: Which particular poets or poetry collections have most inspired your writing (in general or for this particular collection)
Adebe DeRango-Adem: Over the time (and this is a very short list):
- Langston Hughes
- Jack Kerouac
- Amiri Baraka
- Sonia Sanchez
- Toni Morrison
- Aracelis Girmay
- George Elliott Clarke
- Sonnet L’Abbé
- Andrea Thompson
ALU: Are you inspired by a particular place, thing, or someone other than another poet?
ADA: I am very inspired by the works of Kierkegaard, who championed a rare form of existentialism based on religious, rather than atheistic, values. I’m also inspired by the people around the world who have continued to prove, whether through suffering or the attempt to triumph over it, a measure of resilience. Sometimes the largely private act of writing seems futile in the face of so much global hurt. Yet to remain silent and give up on what you believe in—through the act of writing, if that’s what you do—would be worse. Honest and heartfelt creation as a way to work through difficult subjects will always have a place in this world.
ALU: Do you have any particular writing rituals?
ADA: A room of one's own is necessary for me and I think many writers would agree. I like cafes but am easily distracted; I like libraries but the book fiend in me would be distracted there, too. I think there comes a point when you need to be alone with yourself and see eye to eye with your words. Once upon a time I used a typewriter so I could feel each letter of every word I wanted to deliver. Nowadays I proceed with pen and paper (anywhere), then desk, and eventually word processor. Ideally, my writing would begin as soon as I rise, or even more ideally, when the sun rises. Toni Morrison's ritual was to rise very early, make coffee, and "watch the light come." There’s something haunting and majestic in that, and possibly life-changing, and to some extent I’d like to change my rituals so to speak, maybe to reflect some of that kind of light.
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Follow along all April long with our Woven Odes series, in celebration of National Poetry Month. If you've been inspired by Adebe's introspective look at her own identity, check out our interactive poetry web to see which poets you might like to read next after Terra Incognita.
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