“[D]on’t be precious.”: Q & A With Candice Louisa Daquin
Q. What is your earliest memory of poetry?
A: I have a very bad memory of early years but I do remember the poem “Small Hands” by Walt Whitman* being spoken in a Woody Allen movie and me being really deeply affected. I think it might have been “The Tyger” by William Blake. Although to be fair I think children are surrounded with poetry if you think about it.
Q. Have you ever cried reading a poem? Which poem was it? How did it affect you?
A: Without doubt. Mostly ones written by people I know or ones on subjects that are very evocative personally. I cried editing We Will Not Be Silenced because I was so angry that women’s rights and the #metoo movement was having to struggle so much and still wasn’t on par with other rights. I cried editing Through The Looking Glass because of all the mental illness people experience with so little support and compassion. I cried editing But You Don’t Look Sick for the same reason. I even cried with SMITTEN because of the love between women and how hard it can be in society to be same-sex. I think poetry can easily bring you to tears because it’s immediate and visceral and honest.
Q. There are hundreds of types of poetic forms. Is there a particular form that speaks to you? Why?
A: Not at all. I did a MA in writing including learning all the poetic forms like the back of my hand and I was singularly unimpressed. I mean sure, yeah, go at it, but for me – it doesn’t do a thing. I like my poetry raw and steaming on a plate.
Q. Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you overcome it?
A: Someone once told me they never did and I didn’t believe them. I have not met a writer who hasn’t. There are some good tips for avoiding it – but mostly it comes down to discipline. For me I find it hard to write when I’m too busy with other things. I think poetry needs space. I overcome it by reminding myself when I die I will not think ‘I wish I had spent more time in the office’ and trying not to be that typical American who works all the time – that’s not who I want to be and it’s not how I grew up (France) so I make a conscious effort to balance work and life as much as is realistically possible.
Q. Some writers have methods that help them write. Do you? Will you share it with us?
A; When writing prose – don’t be precious. Start. It doesn’t matter if it’s not linear because good writing never is. Just write something. Anything. And keep going. Even if it’s piecemeal you’ll put it together. Have faith in the process – instead of thinking you have to write it how it’s going to ultimately be from the very start. Same with poetry, write it out, then edit it and then wait and then edit it again. Sometimes it comes out perfect the first time but that’s rare.
Q. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in Beyond Good and Evil, “Poets treat their experiences shamelessly: they exploit them.” Do you think this is true? Why or why not?
A: I definitely agree with this. I think writers in general are egotists. I think artists in general are egotists. I think in this world anyone who thinks what they will do for a living is to create for others, and thus they rely upon an audience and thus they need people who like what they do, is by necessity an egotist or they will not succeed. It is a shame. I like humble people without egos but I have yet to meet one in the art-world. It is unfortunate that people who may not have big egos often get nowhere whilst those who do often succeed because it should never be about that but of course it is, especially as we go from 7 billion people all trying to get somewhere and earn their keep. It makes us very dog-eat-dog and I wonder if it would be possible to be pure? I expect once it was.
Q. In 2013 Alexandra Petri wrote the viral and infamous Washington Post article “Is Poetry Dead?” Some people believe poetry doesn’t have a purpose in the modern world and that it is a dying art form. Do you agree? Why or why not?
A: I think the whole idea of poetry being dead or conversely, alive, is just rhetoric. That’s why I don’t like a lot of articles [op-eds] written by people because we mistake them for fact but they’re just noise. The truth lies in simple places. We don’t have the power to pronounce an art form dead or alive. We do it to sell articles, magazines, ad-space, to justify our existence as journalists. But journalism is more dead than anything else. Everything has a purpose in the modern world if people want it to – and it’s not about how many people want it to but about one person wanting it to. We forget that.
Q. Have you ever read the work of prison poets? If you have, tell us about them and whether or not their works have affected you, and if so, how?
A: No – except clients I have had who were in prison. I wouldn’t be adverse to it but then again I can think of other groups I might have more time for – like those who the people in prison victimized?
Q. Do you think trauma and poetry are connected? If so, how?
A: They can be. Essentially because trauma can be best illustrated using art and poetry is a form of art.
Q. What does poetry mean to you?
A: That’s an evolving perspective as it means different things depending. Right now I’m embracing prose even more than poetry and I never thought that would happen. It does discourage me that not enough people read longer, more detailed poetry and I really loathe the whole IG meme poetry movement although I respect others’ love of it. I read a poem the other day from a girl I know well who is dying – so on that day poetry meant I was losing my friend and reading them writing about dying and it slayed me.
Q. Do you think a poem can save a life?
A: No. I think a poem can help save a life. Saving a life is ultimately going to be a personal decision or the intervention of someone else.
Q. How or why do you think poetry is important to the world?
A: Because humans think expression matters and it does – even if nauseatingly we’ve gone too far in our expression, better that than no expression. Poetry is a form of expression that has music literally. I admire singers who write their own songs more than poetry because they go beyond poetry, they transform it to music and thus their art is greater but all writers are musicians if you consider words and how they play.
*Editor’s Note: I believe the poem Candice is referring to here is the poem “somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond” by E.E. Cummings which ends with the line “nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.” But I have not seen many movies, so I digress. Memory is a fickle mistress.
Candice Louisa Daquin is of Sephardi French/Egyptian descent. Born in Europe, Daquin worked in publishing before immigrating to America to become a Psychotherapist, where she has continued writing and editing whilst practicing as a therapist. Daquin is Senior Editor at Indie Blu(e) Publishing, a feminist micro-press. She freelances as Writer-in-Residence for Borderless Journal and Poetry & Art Editor for The Pine Cone Review. Her next personal book of poetry is Tainted by the Same Counterfeit (Finishing Line Press, coming out 2022). Find more of her work at http://www.thefeatheredsleep.com