Spotlight on Adebe D.A. Print
Written by Jeff Cottrill   
Wednesday, 11 May 2011 01:53

Spotlight on Adebe D.A.
by Jeff Cottrill

AdebeSometimes it takes many years for a writer to get public recognition of his or her talents. But Adebe DeRango-Adem (who publishes under the name Adebe D.A.) already has a few impressive kudos on her literary resume, and she hasn’t even graduated from university yet.

Adebe’s writing has appeared in Canadian Woman Studies Journal, The Claremont Review and The Toronto Star; the latter featured her winning poem in the Toronto Poetry Competition, from which she earned her title as the city’s Junior Poet Laureate. This busy young woman is also the Assistant Editor of Existere, the well known literary journal based at York University (where she studies English), as well as a founding member of S.T.E.P. U.P., a poetry collective that helps young writers develop spoken-word skills. She has described her own poetry style at one point as "ballad meets bop."

Adebe’s first poetry chapbook, Sea Change, was released by Burning Effigy Press in September 2007. Here’s what she had to tell us about writing, spoken word, and how to grow as an artist...

 

Tell me about Sea Change. What’s it all about?
Sea Change is my attempt to document the processes by which "growing up" means learning to work through ambiguities and settle into your own skin without closure - in echoing the work of Simone de Beauvoir, understanding the crisis of adolescence as the point where the individual at last assumes their subjectivity. It's less a "triumphing against the odds" than it is (as the phrase itself signifies) realizing the potential of change in every moment of displacement. The meaning of this change is as vast as a sea, and so in this short collection I attempt to trace a few of those moments. The poetic ideal: if one abandons themselves to change, they can no longer be chained up by anything.

How long have you been writing poetry? How did you get started?
About ten years, more seriously in the last five. I took an extremely influential creative-writing class in high school with a teacher who gave us Bukowski and Mishima to read among others (they weren't accepted into secondary English reading lists). I started a poetry group at that time as well and have since treated poetry as less a hobby than a necessity.

What inspires you the most?
When my belief systems get shaken up. Existentialism as a way of life. Renegade intellectuals. Not that those three are always related.

Who are your favourite poets? Have they influenced your own work?
I love different writers for different reasons, and a few of my favourites include Leonard Cohen, Langtson Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Dionne Brand and Rainer Maria Rilke. I enjoy a ton of contemporary poets too, of course, but it's hard to freeze and reflect on the present.

Do you write more to be read on the page or heard out loud? Do you have a preference?
I am trying to ease myself into the latter. Spoken word is a huge phenomenon now, coming back in full force. I am a huge fan of jazz poetry (and recently heard of a jazz/poetry series [JAZZOETRY] starting up in Toronto ). Beatnik parodies aside, I have a ton of respect for poets who can turn words into music. In either case, though, page or stage, a good poem is a good poem. And I see a good poem as dynamic, able to transcend expectations of how it treats its subject. In many cases, a good poem also transcends the subject itself. I think I'd be drawn to spoken word and slam more than I am if it could make magic without using the same old bag of tricks. I also think it's easy to stay with book poetry as an argument for keeping with the literati tradition, which has prized the "same old." In either case, let us not forget that "literati" actually translates into "literate", and that at the end of the day, if you want to read a good poem well, offer a reading of the world in an entirely new way. Don't make the new cliché.

Has working as an editor for Existere affected your writing in any way?
Obviously, it makes one become attuned to the smaller, finer things. Effective writing skills do translate over into the realm of poetry, where our culture of vers libre has, in many instances, become synonymous with "anything goes." Editing also gives you a good idea as to what you might be "up against", if you happen to be a writer yourself. It's a literal and figurative eye-opener, and I am more than happy about working with Existere. I also encourage those reading this to submit!

What are your current plans and goals as far as writing is concerned?
I'm working on two collections, one of which will be a more formalistic exercise (think word/letter restrictions). I'd like to move into treating language as the art object. Hopefully this won't evacuate meaning from the entire process. As a professor once said, "It's usually best to put the avant-garde behind you." But in any case, it's an experiment. Moving outside of what you know means you're willing to grow as an artist.

What advice would you give to young poets who are just starting out?
Just keep writing. Make it as important as brushing your teeth or catching a bus. If the time is right, write. If the time is wrong, write. Don't worry about changing the minds of others; that will come later. In the words of Chekhov, "the task of a writer is not to solve the problem but to state the problem correctly." Oh, and read. Read as many poets as you can, from every generation, every culture, every style and attitude. I think reading is what strengthens one's sense of writing in the first place. Then you can join the literati legitimately!

 

Buy a copy of Sea Change.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 May 2011 22:55