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Holly Painter Interviewed

e-Writer in Residence

Mya Kidson | April 24, 2017

Holly Painter Interviewed

I recently had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing Kitchener poet Holly Painter. Holly is a motivational speaker, spoken word poet, and a teacher. Her spoken word poems are enjoyed by many, at slam poetry events in the KW region.

Thank you Holly for the amazing answers! They will definitely help to motivate me to become a better writer and I hope many others will find this helpful as well!

1. When did you start writing poetry? When was the moment you wanted to write spoken word poetry?

I started writing poetry after attending my first poetry slam, at the age of 24. I was inspired by the poets who got up on stage every month at the London Poetry Slam and expressed themselves and shared their stories so passionately and powerfully, though I was sure I was too scared of public speaking/performing to ever actually share a poem on stage. But I started writing about my own life, and about things I wanted to see changed in the world.

2. What was your favourite poem you’ve written? Why was it meaningful?

I think the poem I have written that is my favourite is 'Butterfly Boy', because even though it took over a year to finally come together, I like the way it addresses a big issue (gender stereotypes) through the story of a small moment (seeing a young boy denied a butterfly sticker because "butterflies are for girls"). I enjoy performing it, and hearing stories from parents who hear it, and I created the video myself with help from local teachers and community members. (here's a link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DkJeY6rGGs )

3. When did you realize you wanted to be a motivation speaker and spoken word poet?

I sat in the audience at the London Poetry Slam for two years before I ever got the courage to get up on stage. But in those two years, I sat and listened to so many powerful stories of people's lives which had a profound effect on me, and I thought, I have some stories I could share too. In terms of being a public speaker full-time, I didn't really realize I wanted to do it until I was busy doing it!

4. Where is your inspiration derived from?

My inspiration comes from my own personal life stories, my struggles but also my strength, and from the people around me that I interact with. I am also largely inspired by other spoken word artists, people who write and perform and speak in ways that have an impact on me, and therefore I try to work in some of what they have done for me, into what I do for my audiences.

5. Who are your icons (famous writers, family or friends, famous actors, etc)? Why?

I am a big fan of Andrea Gibson, a spoken word poet from the US, who tackles issues of gender, sexuality, politics, etc in poems that are amazingly crafted and often times very funny; I have yet to figure out how to be good at writing poems on serious topics and manage to bring in humour as well.

6. Do you ever get stage fright when you present, how do you get over it?

I definitely still get a little bit of nerves before I speak, but largely my fear of public speaking is gone. Like anything, practice makes things easier. In terms of dealing with stage fright, I usually have three tips: 1) don't eat a huge meal before you speak, 2) make sure you have water for if your mouth goes dry, 3) read from a notebook instead of one single piece of paper, so if your hands shake it's less noticeable. Also, recognize that nervousness is your body responding how it should, so instead of getting angry at yourself for shaking or feeling a bit sick, tell your body thanks for doing what it should do, and find ways that work for you to combat it, like the list above. And remember that your audience doesn't care if you're nervous, because they would be too!

7. I have always wanted to try spoken word poetry but I often have trouble with writer's block. Have you ever had writer's block, and how did you overcome it?

I have writer's block all the time, but I think I am starting to learn that it's not really a lack of ideas that keeps us from writing, it's a lack of confidence. Most of the time that I feel like I have nothing to write about, or am stuck on a poem idea, it's because I am worried about the piece being too perfect, or what people might think about it, or how it compares to my other poems or other people's poems. If I can stop worrying about all that stuff and be confident in what I'm writing, usually I can write more freely and easily.

8. Has anyone ever discouraged you from writing poetry, what would you say to aspiring writers who are self conscious about sharing their writing to others?

No one has discouraged me from writing, and I'm sure there are people who have opinions about what I do and why/how I do it. But never will 100% of people love what you do 100% of the time, no matter what you're doing, so it's important to focus on the reasons why you love what you do. Plus there will always be other people somewhere who enjoy it as well, and people who will support you. Finding that community is incredibly powerful in feeling confident and having fun.

9. What are the best Slam poetry events around Cambridge, Kitchener for new writers to attend or participate in?

Kitchener-Waterloo Poetry Slam is home to many wonderful writers and performers, you should definitely check it out! http://www.kwpoetryslam.com/

Thanks again Holly! For more information visit her website at http://www.hollypainterpoetry.com