Black Moss Press

Samantha Badoa on so am I

Samantha Badaoa, Windsor’s Youth Poet Laureate, is one to watch out for. Her poetry is fresh and raw, exploring the heart of things like religion and love for a deeper understanding. We hope you enjoy this exclusive interview and poetic excerpts.

so am i is your first published book, can you tell us about the experience of publishing your first book?

= Publishing this book has been such a unique experience. I’ve worked as an editor as part of the publishing practicum at the University of Windsor in the past, so I thought that I had a good idea of what to expect during this process – I was wrong. As a writer who has generally avoided the publishing scene and wrote primarily for the stage, I was really worried about how I would adapt to the process and politics of publishing a book. When you’re a performance poet, you have a lot of control over your own work and are able to curate all aspects of the experience you present to an audience. You edit your own pieces, you decide when you want to perform, where you want to perform and you have a lot of control over all of the circumstances surrounding your performance and poem. Publishing with a team of editors means learning how to relinquish control of the words on the page and coming to terms with the fact that your work inhabits an entirely different and unpredictable world once it’s in print. These were not easy lessons for me to learn, but they were absolutely necessary. I was lucky enough to work with a group of editors who understood the direction I wanted to take with my book, and who worked very hard to get there. For that, I am very grateful. I look forward to publishing in the future.

Do you have any plans for your next book?

I do! In my next book I want to write about the intersection of immigration, race, class and economics in the Windsor-Essex Country area. I grew up in Leamington, the fourth child of immigrants in a middle-class family. Leamington is a diverse town, and because of its ties to the agricultural industry there is an extreme disparity of wealth in such a small area. It is not uncommon to witness, within a ten-minute drive around my town, the mansions of multi-millionaires and the houses of people living below or just above the poverty line. While immigrants and migrant workers account for a large number of people working in the agricultural industry in these areas, for the most part they are not reaping the benefits of this extremely lucrative industry. I would like to create work that explores these issues.

I have a solid concept for another book as well, but the above project is the one I want to focus on first. It will be extremely interesting to examine these businesses and industries in the aftermath of the economic current situation we are in.

Many of your poems carry religious themes, can you explain the impact religion has had on your life and why it has translated itself over to your poetry?

I was born and raised a Maronite Catholic. When you are raised in the Catholic church you are swarmed from a young age with images and symbols that are supposed to hold great space in your heart. You are also bombarded with many rules and roles you are supposed to follow depending on your gender. As much as I tried to find a home in the Catholic church, to find meaning and holiness in a place where so many others did, I just couldn’t. Writing about religion was a way for me to understand myself in relation to a tradition that I was meant to believe was right, even though it didn’t feel right to me. Writing about religion was a way for me to reclaim symbols (like water, churches, stained glass windows) that had become in my mind so attached to something so tainted that I could not appreciate these things for what they are. Because my relationship with religion is so much a part of myself, it feels inevitable that it seeps into my writing.

How has being Windsor’s Youth Poet Laureate impacted your poetry and your writing as a whole?

Being Windsor’s Youth Poet Laureate has given me the opportunity to really contemplate about the city of Windsor. It has allowed me to think about the needs of the city and whether they’re being met. I think a lot about how I would like to see Windsor grow and expand in terms of its arts community and in which ways our community need to change to encourage growth. My writing, now more than ever, discusses these issues.

Who are some poets who have inspired you and why?

Like any other writer, I am inspired by many poets, too many to name here! Because of my spoken word beginnings, I have found a lot of inspiration from poets with similar backgrounds. Some of them are: Danez Smith, Anis Mojgani and Andrea Gibson. They are all extremely talented writers. What I love about each of their works is their ability to write about difficult topics in a way that isn’t alienating to their audience. They are all writers who do not shy away from the personal or the raw and that type of courage from any type of artist I always find very inspiring.

I am also inspired by many local poets, Vanessa Shields and Mary Ann Mulhern are two that come to mind. Vanessa Shields knows how to weave humour into her poems in a way that I admire. She also is a poet who isn’t afraid of boundaries. As a writer who finds themselves constantly negotiating internally with what I can and can’t put into a poem, I find her fearlessness refreshing. Mary Ann is a poet who knows how to get to the heart of what’s important in a poem. She is able to use images in a way that’s always unpredictable and heart wrenching, and she is able to do it in short poems. I tend to write longer poems so I find it very inspiring to see poets who are able to pack a punch in poems that aren’t very long.

Poems from so am I

Holy water for bird baths

there is a bird bath

in the park across the street

there are bottles filled with Holy water

lining the pantry in my mother’s house

I am seven years old when I take them

fill a plastic shopping bag

drag it across the pavement

stop only

when I get close enough

to hear the songbirds

there are four of them

lounging on the lip of the basin

they don’t move

when I move

small delicate steps

I was a ballerina then

arms stretched high

standing on tippy toes

I can only

just

reach the bath

I will learn later that

just

is a word I cannot say

without my tongue and skin swelling

but right now

I like the sound the water makes

as it falls into the near empty bird bath

I like the sound the water makes

as it falls onto itself

splashes were never something I avoided

the bottles are empty

the bath is filled

the birds are still singing

the birds are falling

the birds are not flying

the birds are drowning

the birds have stopped singing

too much water

there was too much water

songbirds aren’t good in water

can’t swim well

become too unbalanced when they fall in

to remember they are birds

who have wings

that turn skies into

boulevards

and open dirt roads

I used to think birds were invincible

it is the first time I learn

that even something Holy

can kill you

if you forget who you are

my first love poem

I have lost more than I’d care to admit

on failed attempts at love poems

for people

who have demanded them

or for people

who have deserved them

my hands seem to tremble

and my fingers start to seize

at the idea of loving anyone

like a flower

like an ocean

like anything that is written

on a hallmark card

like things that can be contained by ink

it somehow seems very wrong to even try

I’ve made unwilling victims of these pages

in the name of a “love poem”

and still

I always seem to end up writing

about the wrong things

like my mom

I’ve been told

that my mother has no place

in a poem

to a boyfriend

or a partner

or a future husband

but it is easy to write about her

and for once

it is easy to write about you

I can tell you about her smile

how it always seemed like a multicoloured acid trip

or about her hands

and how they cradled me in birth and near death

with the same gentleness

and understanding

smooth despite the cuts and burns

she collected throughout the years

or how she always smelt like oranges

and that even now the smell of citrus

never fails to make me happy

I can tell you about the days where I am horizontal

chained to my bed

my chest weighed down by thoughts like

“I’m not good enough”

and

“damn living is hard”

she tears the sheets from the bed throws the windows open

tells me that I am like the sunrise

that comes through the horizon

this is her way of telling me I will be okay

and for the first time in my life

I believe it

the next time he tells me

I will be okay

I believe him too

on our first date

he showed up at my door with a bag of oranges

we sat on a grassy hill and pretended to watch the moon

the pile of peels growing larger behind us

as the space between us grew smaller and smaller

this is how I have learned to love and write about love

when I say I feel about two inches tall

he leads me to a mountain

reminds me how beautiful it can be to be small

how fulfilling it can be to be engulfed by things

much older and wiser than us

we spend the rest of the night

looking at pictures of space

when I finally do fall asleep

it is in the crook of his arm

our chests moving up and down in a unison

that only comes with deep and peaceful slumber

I can’t sleep without him anymore

and I admit

I have seen women stronger than me

surrender to heartbreak

I have been cataloging their collapse since childhood

filing this information away under

reasons why I should not fall in love

and reasons why I definitely

should not write about falling in love

but I am ready to fall

I am ready to slip and stumble

I am ready to fumble over words

like love

my tongue thought it would never pronounce

I am ready to shed any excuse

defence or worry

about how I would pick up the pieces

if he and I were ever to shatter

being vulnerable is only as scary as you let it be

and I am not scared anymore

this is how I have learned to love him

and write about love

not through blood-soaked pages

or empty metaphors

but with

orange peels

grassy hills

pictures of space

and most importantly

courage


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