Interview: Shatara Liora

Editor Katie Collins Guinn, Interview, June 26th, 2020

"the beauty in creating because you love to and no other reason"

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Shatara Liora is a poet hailing from North Carolina via traveling the world and originally born in Hawaii. Her two poetry collections, East of a Cold Red Sun and Love’s Third Eye, both debuted in several number one spots on Amazon when published.

Her words are imaginative and visual, as if each piece could birth a painting. Her two published collections include a satisfying body of beautiful words in the form of poetry and some doses of prose, with certain themes and images hopping throughout, creating layer upon layer of human experience, growing knowledge, and thus presenting us with a collection of cohesive pieces.

As readers we are invited into her dreams, whether in the day or in sleep. We take a walk through the stories she’s telling of trauma whether experienced or inherited; intense lovers, lost lovers, lovers suffering together, and – at the core – is radical self-love.

Shatara’s work vibrates with the body, as she writes of and through her body. She crackles the reader open as she conveys her own crackling open. The added element of living in a body that society has attempted to break down so many times, throughout the centuries, in so many ways, she writes of the deep appreciation she holds for her exceptional beauty; physically, emotionally, mentally powerful.

As a Corporeal Writing squad mistress, I’m very drawn to and intrigued by those who know their bodies in such a deep way that they know its capabilities as a story teller. Shatara is quite adept at this.

 

I love surrealism and my poetry includes a lot of it. I don’t think poetry should have to be grounded in the concrete. I love vivid imagery and beautiful strange things. It’s a small niche that doesn’t have much representation, particularly black women poets.”- Shatara Liora

 

Katie Guinn had the pleasure of talking with Shatara for Nailed.

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Katie: So, how are you doing in all this? What has shifted for you and has it been good, bad, both? 

(*this was asked right before protests emerged in response to all of the black bodies being murdered by those who claim to serve and protect, so “this” is referring to the Covid-19 shit)

Shatara: I’m still trying to figure out how I’m doing in this because things are changing so much daily. I’ve been trying to do a lot of self-care. I’ve also just been diving into various creative outlets in an effort to have some sort of release and free expression. When things are chaotic, I can become highly anxious so it’s important that I try to stay grounded. Being creative has always allowed me to do this. I don’t watch much tv so I do find myself wanting to be as productive as possible with projects. I want to take advantage of not being so distracted while I can. Ultimately what will keep me going is prayer and meditation.

 

Katie: How did poetry come into your life? Do you remember the first poem(s) you read?

Shatara: I actually started writing poetry before I knew what poetry even was. When I was a little girl, I wrote songs and poems almost every day. I still have some of them and when I need a good nostalgic laugh, I read them.

Some of the first poets I remember reading was Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and Edgar Allen Poe. Edgar Allen Poe was my first introduction to poetry really and his laments and intense love and sorrow spoke to me as an empath.

One of my best friends in middle school introduced me to the poem “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou and I will always be grateful to her because that was really an introduction into womanism and to black women poets. A world, at that time, I had yet to discover.

 

Katie: What a wonderful friend. There are so many amazingly talented black women writers, artists, and poets creating beautiful work. It’s angering that we aren’t exposed to more women artists in the public school structure. If you’d been exposed to more black women artists through school, what do you think that would have changed for you as a young black girl?

Shatara: I would have honed in on my writing more. I would have felt I could be a poet too. I would have been able to read poems that spoke to me in my own love languages.  I imagine it would have been a very profound experience.

 

Katie: Do you make art in other ways as well?

Shatara: Yes, I do like to sing. I’ve got songs I’ve made that are a part of what I call my “tiny mic sessions” because I’m literally using a tiny mic to make music. No studio, no nothing. Is the quality lacking? Of course, but I do it for the love of it and then put it into the universe. Some of them are on my website.

 

Katie: That’s right! How did I miss that?

How did you develop your skills as a poet? What school(s) did you attend, or are you self-taught?  

Shatara: I am self-taught, however, I did enroll in an MFA program at Queens University to dive deeper into the art of poetry. I’ve learned a lot. I’m hoping it will be evident in my next book. And although poetry has its technicalities, I will always write how I choose. My writing is definitely not for everybody and that’s okay! Workshopping is an interesting experience, but very necessary for any writer or artists to hone their skill.

 

Katie: Well then, let’s talk form! I notice how you write “i” as lower case in almost every piece in Love’s Third Eye. This presents/radiates a sense of authority underneath layers of humbleness, humility, and wisdom for myself as a reader. I am curious about your intentions if there are any.

Same with punctuation. There is little punctuation in the poems and it feels powerful to me, that you, the artist/writer have invented your own way to write and don’t need to follow the rules of academia in order to write a magnificent poem. I would just love to hear what you have to say about that.

Shatara: I naturally move to the beat of my own drum. You are absolutely correct, I have very much written how I’ve wanted to over the years and will continue to do so. Poetry is an art form and everyone’s art should be a little different. I didn’t use many punctuations in older works because I wanted the reader to read it however they chose, in whatever way felt good or right. That’s actually an odd thing to say, but that’s how I felt at the time. I liked using the lower case “i” at times because to me it felt soft, it felt humble, approachable…but it also challenged the reader because it’s not what’s considered correct. I am truly a free form poet. The biggest criticism my work always receives is form so the fact that you enjoy it is just glorious honey!

 

Katie: Well I’d assume those humans are kind of miserable. I believe we need to continue to create new ways of doing things in order to keep evolving. If we’re stagnant, we lose critical parts of ourselves…not only as artists, but as humans. I do believe we are in the midst of a revolution as far as what the rules of art and writing are, and I’ve been preparing for it since I was a young artist myself. 

Let’s talk publishing!  Do you submit work to journals and other publications?

Shatara: Yes, I do! I have a piece in Rigorous Magazine. I think it’s great to have your work published in various journals and literary magazines because it’s more exposure to people who may not have heard of you or read you work. These publications are by no means easy to get into so it’s a good feeling when your work is chosen.

 

Katie: Yes, having work accepted is such a triumph. Can you tell us what made you decide to publish through Amazon rather than through another publisher?

Shatara: Once I put a collection of poems together I didn’t really know there were publishers who would publish an unknown poet so I took it into my own hands to put my work out there. I was eager to just put it out right away because it took everything in me to even write it!  I don’t particularly regret it, but I wish I would have done more research on small presses at least.

 

Katie: You’re definitely side-stepping a lot of hassle and heartache I’m sure, and the fact that your books were number one for so long is really cool! 

Were you nervous at all about this route?

Shatara: I wasn’t because I didn’t have any expectations. That’s the beauty in creating because you love to and no other reason. I was never hard on myself about the books or what they would do. I just put them out and said okay, let’s see what happens. But it was the best feeling ever seeing it all unfold.

 

Katie: Lastly, if you have any new work that you’d like to tease readers with, feel free to send it over!

Oh, are you able to tell us about your upcoming book and when/where we can expect to order it?

Shatara: I have a novel that is in the editing stages and another poetry book in the works. I hope to have one of them out within the next year or two. The novel I am especially proud of…it is lyrical, crushing, and brave.

 

Katie: Personally, I cannot wait.

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Read the Poetry Suite by Shatara Liora here.

Shatara Liora is a writer, poet, and mental health therapist residing in Charlotte, NC. She has lived all over the world and loves art, museums, and all things vintage. Shatara has been published in Rigorous Literary Magazine and Black Girl In Om in addition to her own indie poetry collections “East of A Cold Red Sun” and “Love’s Third Eye”. She currently serves as an editorial assistant for Qu Literary Magazine.

 

You can find more about Shatara and purchase her books here: https://shataraliora.com/bio/

 

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Katie Collins Guinn

Katie is an artist, mother of blood and non-blood daughters, writer, wifey, g-ma, flower gardener, North Portlander and lover of the beautiful. She earned a degree in the fine arts of apparel design, and constructs art through cloth via couture garments.

She's spent time as a contributing freelance writer for the Portland Mercury. She's part of the corporeal writing family, which has brought about work that's been hiding in her lungs, liver and heart for years.

Her adult coloring book The Stoner Babes was published in 2018 with Microcosm Publishing. She’s had work appear in Nailed Magazine, Entropy and The Manifest-station.

She co-parents 21 roses and counting.