Native Artists (& Writers) Online: Interview With An Inspiring Writer Edition

Happy New Year (if calendars are your thing, if not Happy Winter)!
This month I’m taking a break from writing about art to revisit the first artist I wrote about in this series and explore one of her other passions, writing. If you follow Wapshkankwet/Sarah Perrot on social media and/or her Patreon, then you already know what an amazing and passionate writer she is, if not you are about to find out. Either way you won’t be disappointed as Wapshkankwet opens up and lets us all see inside her process as a writer and shares an intimate look at her own, very personal, relationship with words and healing.

Wapshkankwet, NTVTWT August Artist of the Month and an Inspiring Writer

M- How would you describe your poetry to somebody who’s never read your work before?
W- My poetry style is contemporary storytelling, that’s my writing style too. Sometimes I work with feel, or other senses and I dabble in classic form, and break those rules as much as possible. I do find value in what the old dead white dudes did, if only to mock the rules with re-arranging breaks and twisting words to fit what needs to be expressed.
M- I find your poetry to be visceral yet, in it’s own way, sometimes almost lyrical- do you ever write lyrics?W- Thank you, that means so much to me. Truly. I do write lyrics and have sold a couple of songs to indie groups and bands, not sure if they ever got as far as recorded and distributed, but I’m working with my daughter on writing a couple of songs now. It’s always surprising to people that my lyrics and songs tend to be more…folky or country. I have two other artists who I’d like to work with, friends from high school and college. I really love Dessa, Amigo the Devil, Carla Kihlstedt, Glass Animals, Frightened Rabbit, Zeal and Ardor, I mean…I like a LOT of Indie Rap too.
M- Do you have a favorite poet or poets who inspire you?
W- I do have some favorites. My mom, her poetry inspired me. Sometimes we’d talk in poetry, go back and forth. Diane Burns, Sylvia Plath (blah, I know, shoot me right?), Langston Hughes, The ENTIRE Kuumba Lynx team (Chicago), Henry Wadsworth, Clint Smith, Sara Kay, Michael Lee (watch and listen to his video, “Pass On” and holy macaroni, if you’ve known loss…that one hits you hard), and then like a handful of poems here and there. I did work with Young Chicago Authors and Louder Than a Bomb Poetry festival in Chicago before moving and there are so many poets (especially youth) who just rocked me to my core with their words. I also use poetry as a tool in grief work and there are some poets who didn’t know they were poets until it came out. Their poems and the healing work they accomplished to get those poems out was such an inspiration.
M- Tell me about your process as a writer, do you tend to switch back and forth between writing poetry and writing about your work and self care or do you have periods where you focus on just one area?
W- I do switch back and forth and I also find they all overlap at times. I’ve found that with work writings I tend to shut down and it’s just business, business, but I use the poetry as self-care and then the self-care as more of a process to help me understand my own cycles and take the theoretical out of theory to say, ‘hey, this is what that LOOKS like this and it’s a horrible act of self-care, or hey, this works!’ If I’m learning something new then I’ll focus on required writing for that, but then I’ll process it through poetry…example, when I took a course in logic, that almost postponed me from graduating. I wrote ALL of the proofs out as poems and my professor passed me on that. He said it was unconventional, but I did evidence that I understood the teachings. I think he just passed me so he didn’t have to deal with me again.

Wapshkankwet’s latest book

M- What inspired you to write about dealing with grief?
W- My need to heal. Holding on to my grief and sadness manifested physically and was literally killing me. I strongly believe holding on to this, and the anger that came with my grief fed my uterine and ovarian cancer. I survived being kidnapped, assaulted, stabbed, and having my throat slit, I survived another near death experience before that as a child. I held on to so much grief from these events. And multiple other events in life including drug use and addiction, boarding schools, foster placement, intergenerational trauma…it’s really been a heavy life. I started out in Grief work when I was assigned the Grief & Loss Group as therapeutic group for my clients. I was a residential care recreational therapist and we were short staff so I ended up getting stuck with running Grief and Loss with 13 adolescent youth, who all had Conduct Disorder and AHDH, we also had anger management together and it was court ordered. Needless to say we all hated the groups and each other. I threw out the curriculum and signed up for a Drama For Life course with Karen Erickson, who is a playwright and educator out of Northwestern University in Chicago. She taught us how to use role play in therapy and I used this for my grief work. Before this I worked with my family on Grief Work in youth groups on the Rez (Wind River) and then did my own guided grief work with my Dad (Elder and Lodge Member, Potawatomi). Grief work has always come up in life, not just associated with death, but that’s where it’s lead me.
M- What do you most want your readers to get out of your poetry and other work?
W- I want readers to feel connected, even if for a moment. I want to inspire questions. I want to create space for more work. I want to be challenged to grow myself.
M- Can you tell me about your recent publications, on Patreon and in print, and what you have coming up?
W- I’ve really changed my Patreon over the past couple of months from death care work and self-help, poetry and short stories to also touch on topics that impact “Indian Country”, specifically topics impacting my people and things I’ve followed (MMIWG2S/MMIP). I’ve also made space for my partner’s work there. He was willing to share some of his “rekindling” journey there and has a lot of video work, I’ve also added some of my photography, audio poetry, and art. Other than that my most recent publication is a short collection of poetry, short stories, an essay, and photography. I went self publishing route and will be distributing on my Esty, which is kind of under construction until we decided on a proper store front.
M- Is there a question you wish someone would ask but no one has yet?
W- I guess maybe if writing makes it hurt less…
M- And does it?
W- It’s really made it less heavy and easier to breathe. Writing your truth definitely helps keep the pain at bay, at least.
M- Where can people buy your books and read your other work?
W- I have my past collections available on Amazon under Sarah Perrote, or directly from me online (etsy is attached to my Instagram @melancholynow) or in person. I will have another collection out this summer with poetry, short stories, and audio recordings of several of the poems. I also have work scattered in various publications from the past and will be publishing more works later this year. Announcements on my Patreon (speakingsilently).

And for those who don’t know, here’s where to find her jewelry online:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wapshkankwet/ (pictures of beading and other art as well as coverage of our favorite beading assistant)
Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MelancholyNow (lots of great work for sale)
Wapshkankwet‘s jewelry price range: free (trades, or giving away) to $100.00

Quill Earrings, $55.00 per pair

Come back next month when I will return to my regular coverage of Native Artists Online, each with its own featured artist and their favorite beaders and other artists. Don’t forget to tweet to me @EaglesElatis to let me know which artists you would like to see interviewed.

Until then, keep warm and be good to yourselves!
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