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Try Poetry: Coconut + Nisha Patel
Spoken word poet and Edmonton’s Poet Laureate Emeritus Nisha Patel shares “questions for google assistant at 4am”, a poem from her collection Coconut (NeWest Press), and tells us about how writing can be like sculpting, “weird flexes” in the performance space, and more in today’s interview.
An Interview with Poet Nisha PatelAll Lit Up: When was the moment that you decided you wanted to write poetry? Nisha Patel: Although writing as a teenager hadn’t stuck, I knew I wanted to be a spoken word poet the moment I saw Ahmed Knowmadic perform a poem about his anxiety to a captive audience. In seconds, a thought had crystallized as I felt moved to tears: I want to do that, too. Later that year, after a summer of heartbreak, I wrote my first spoken word poem and when I performed it an entire family in the audience approached me and said “You made a whole table of Eastern Europeans cry.” Weird flex, but touching an audience is a gift and a responsibility to tell the truth the best I can at any moment. ALU: If you had to pitch your featured poem to someone who had never read poetry before, how would you do so? NP: This poem was an experimental piece inspired by my everyday life. Like most of my work, each poem starts with a spark, a sentence, a refrain that reveals itself to me. My writing process then becomes one of uncovering the story like a sculpture is uncovered out of stone. You take away the parts that aren’t the poem. In climate grief, everything feels like the poem, so my job is harder: you take away the parts that aren’t true to the poem. What’s left is a precision of writing that comes to me when I’ve created the conditions for the truth to show. ALU: What’s a poetry collection or individual poem that you’d recommend to anyone looking to get into poetry?NP: My favourite Canadian poetry collection right now is Nancy Lee’s What Hurts Going Down. But I also think a good reader of poetry is someone who experiments and finds out what makes them feel alive through attending poetry nights and events and hearing poems, as that is a masterclass in how to connect with an audience (or what to avoid).
“questions for google assistant at 4am”From Nisha Patel’s collection Coconut
* * *Nisha Patel is the Poet Laureate Emeritus of the City of Edmonton. An award-winning disabled and queer artist, she is a Canadian Poetry Slam Champion and holds a Master of Arts in Cultural Studies from Queen’s University. Her debut poetry collection, Coconut (NeWest Press) was a finalist of the ABPA Regional Book of the Year. She is currently finishing her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia, where she is writing her first graphic novel.Nisha’s latest works include multimodal inquiries into disabled life. She is currently working on promoting her newest chapbook, How to get a Thigh Gap (Collusion Books).Photo of Nisha by Matthew James Weigel.
* * *Thanks to Nisha Patel for answering our questionnaire and sharing “questions for google assistant at 4am” with us for Try Poetry (Why Not?).Remember, if you purchase a copy of Coconut or any of the other featured Try Poetry collections, you’ll receive a free digital sampler containing all of our featured poems. (Purchase from All Lit Up or from your local independent bookseller; send proof of payment to firstname.lastname@example.org if you purchase from your local!)