Interview with poet Devreaux Baker

DevreauxIt is with genuine honor and pleasure that I introduce today’s featured poet, Devreaux Baker. Devreaux’s poetry came into my life when she submitted a poem for the “200 New Mexico Poems” project last year. Her poem “Red Willow People” is number 93 in the collection and was posted on June 8, 2012. In addition, it will be included in the upcoming print anthology.

Not long after posting her poem, I received a copy of Devreaux’s 2011 collection of poetry of the title. It didn’t take long for me to appreciate and understand why it was selected for the 2011 PEN Oakland Award.  Please enjoy today’s interview with Deveraux immediately following her poem.
***
Recipe for Lorca’s Chocolate Cake 

I worked all night on a chocolate cake for Lorca,
filled with light that does not know what it wants,

created from chocolate so dark it sears hearts
and fills minds with dreams of moon and water.

I used cocoa so pure it causes policemen to weep.
I filled the layers with white linen afternoons,

a hint of ginger and essence of rose creating a dancestep
that wakes your spirit to enter the souls of your feet as a whisper

and fill your body with duende, passion of the first kiss,
becoming a river of fire that ignites your thighs,

and sets loose love reflected in all the eyes of men,
women, children and dogs,

so that one bite of chocolate will rest in your belly
like the tender edge of dawn,

lifting your voice out of the dark rooms of earth
where you sleep, rising up like wind or stars

to encircle my body once again
with your words.

***

How long have you been writing poetry and what set you in motion?I have been writing poetry my entire life. Some of my earliest memories are of writing poems as a child and making small books of poetry. I was raised in a home where story telling was a huge part of our family tradition and poems were freely recited to us by our grandmother. I remember taking long car trips with my family and being entertained by many poetry recitations from my grandmother. I also remember being shown hand bound notebooks that had been passed down from ancestors that were filled with stories and poems and this made a huge impression on me as to the importance of poetry as well as stories within a family.—

DBaker_Red_Willow_Front (2)Tell me about the inspiration behind your collection of poetry, “Red Willow People.”

When I received the HeleneWurlitzer Writing Fellowship I thought I would concentrate on editing an existing manuscript which I took with me to Taos.  It became clear after I had been in residence for the first week that I was there to write a book of poems which reflected the inspiration of the land and the many diverse people who live there.  I did not have a car while in residence which was a huge benefit as I walked everywhere and had an opportunity to more directly engage with the environment. Early on I had the good fortune to meet Jocelyn Martinez who is an incredibly talented artist from the Taos Pueblo. I shared some poetry with her and she offered to supply the cover illustration for the book. My connection with Jocelyn was a huge impetus for bringing the book to completion. A year later I was awarded a PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award for that book.
What, in your opinion,  is the most difficult aspect of getting a book published?I feel very lucky in finding a publisher who believes in my work and is so supportive of my vision. I think one of the hardest things about getting published is not becoming discouraged by rejection. It is so competitive and hard to get anything published these days that I think if a writer finds a small independent press that is a right match for them, they should consider themselves fortunate.

What other creative activities do you purusue?

Some other creative outlets include performance art, radio work, and of course anything to do with being out in nature. For several years I produced a radio program of original student writing for public radio titled The Voyagers Show. Working with students of all ages to produce that show was some of the most gratifying work I have done.  I also enjoy performing poetry readings which incorporate music and have recently staged shows which use live music and masks. I will be returning to Taos      in September for a second Wurlitzer fellowship and am looking forward to producing a new book and a multi media show with several other artists (as yet unknown) from New Mexico. I love the idea of collaborating on a piece that incorporates visual art with the spoken word.
***
Devreaux Baker is a Pushcart Prize nominee and winner of the 2011 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Poetry Prize for her book, Red Willow People. She is the recipient of the 2012 Hawaii Council of Humanities International Poetry Prize, and the Women’s Global Leadership Initiative Poetry Award. Her poetry fellowships include a MacDowell Fellowship, the Hawthornden Castle International Fellowship, three California Arts Council Awards and two Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowships. She has published three books of poetry; Red Willow People, Beyond the Circumstance of Sight, and Light at the Edge and conducted poetry workshops in France and Mexico. She has taught poetry in the schools with the CPITS Program and produced the Voyagers Radio Program of original student writing for KZYX Public Radio.

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3 thoughts on “Interview with poet Devreaux Baker

  1. Timothy Pettet

    This comment may seem irreverent. I just want to know if Lorca saved me a piece. Such a joy to read and contemplate would have to taste very good.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Taos and Taos Arts in the News 4/16/2013

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