Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Nancy Patrice Davenport

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Nancy Patrice Davenport is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and lives in Oakland, California. A single mother, Nancy has been writing for about ten years.

Her poems are widely published in various journals and anthologies, and have been translated into many languages. Nancy’s JUNE 2 RETROGRADE MINDFULNESS poem was nominated for the 2016 Best of Net.

Nancy’s first chapbook, LA BRIZNA, was published in 2014 by Bookgirl Press. She has work published by Country Valley Press. A full-length book of poems, SMOKING IN MOM’S GARAGE, was published in 2018 by Red Alice Press.

The Interview

  1. When and why did you start writing poetry?

I was inspired to write poetry when my son began high school and I found myself retired due to epilepsy.   I was searching for meaning in my life, and when a friend suggested I write a poem about the recent death of my mother, I found myself inspired. Once I was inspired, I took a file of my poems, and wrote to a poet that became my first mentor, Charlie Mehrhoff, and asked him if he would help teach me.

  1. Who introduced you to poetry?

I am the youngest of four, and wanted to learn to read before I began school, so my mom taught me the basics. This created an intense interest in the written word. As I child I was picked on, the library was my escape.   I equated books with invisibility and peace. For me, novels were new worlds to explore in. Once I discovered poetry, I found emotions universal to my own, I dug how feelings and intimations were expressed through word and white space.

  1. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?

I wouldn’t call older poets a dominating presence so much as an inspirational presence.

  1. What is your daily writing routine?

When everything is working right, and my brain is Zen, I like to try to write every day, allow the poems to flow. One day a week is for submitting. One day is for editing. One day is for research. One day is for other. But if my brain isn’t working, I don’t force it, because the poems come out sounding forced, and inorganic.

  1. What motivates you to write?

I am motivated to write by life, by what happens to me in life, but misfortune, and fortune. When I have trouble finding inspiration, I create in other art forms. I dislike having idle hands.

  1. What is your work ethic?

My work ethic is humility, honesty, and simplicity. I also like gratitude and some sense of universalism.

  1. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

When I was younger my two favorite poets were Whitman and Cummings.   I was influenced by both their use of space and tabs for emphasis/meaning. My thought was, if they could write this way, I could too, possibly.

  1. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

Who are the poets I admire most today? This is a difficult question, as there are so many different poets I admire, for so many different reasons. But I admire Bill Gainer a great deal. He is not only a wonderful poet, but a very good editor. Charlie Mehrhoff is another fine poet, and editor. He was the one who advised me to get rid of extra “the, and, I, me, you … etc.” — this helped me tighten up my work. I also have admiration for my first editor, Scott Watson. He is an amazing translator, poet and editor, and he pulled me out of obscurity for my first chapbook. But on another poetic level, I admire poet John Martone for his compact poems that say so very much in so few words; he does what I wish I could do. I also admire the multi-dimensional work of poet Donna Snyder. I think Kushal Podder is a brilliant poet, subtle, with amazing imagery.
Here in the Bay Area I enjoy the work of Kim Shuck, MK Chavez, Natasha Dennerstein, Alexandra Naughton, William Taylor, Jr., Joel Landmine, G. Macias Gusman, and Paul Corman-Roberts. As I said, there are so many poets that I admire. This paragraph could fill an entire page. I am a fan of Arizona poet Jefferson Carter, for many reasons. I not only like his poetry, but I like his attitude.
I am also a fan of Cathyann Cusiamo, Molly Fisk, James Lee Jobe, and more recently, Mike Griffith, Fred Whitehead, Mike James, Seth Berg, Kevin Ridgeway, Curtis Hayes … there are people that post work on Facebook that I admire as well. As I said, the list of these names is endless.

  1. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

I write because, aside from being a mother, I have discovered that this is my meaning in life, my sense of spirituality, how I am able to free myself from demons. Once I started to write, I didn’t                                                                                                                                                                                                                              know how – or feel able to – stop.   I always wanted to be a writer in some kind of capacity. When I was younger I wanted to write novels. But the novels have come out as poetry.

  1. What would you say to who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

If somebody asked me how to become a writer, I would go about it much the same way I did. I would find a good teacher, someone with experience, and ask for help. Before I referred this person to poets, I would refer them to books: Elements of Style, (Struck and White), The Poet’s Craft (Kreuzer), The Poet’s Glossary, (Hirsch), The Making of a Poem (Spender) and A Poet’s Craft, by Annie Finch. Once these books were acquired and studied, I would begin to refer to poets, depending on the interest of the person. But I would ask this person to think hard. It’s not easy to become anything, think one is born to be a writer, not certain if one can force this, otherwise, the writing itself is forced.

  1. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

Writing projects of the moment include a new chapbook in the works, about to go into a third round of editing. I’m also collaborating with a couple of poets with respect to some poems about mental health. The usual submissions. One last project is another full-length collection.

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