EASTSIDE PREP INVITES SPEAKERS, REFERRED TO AS “Visiting Thinkers,” onto our campus each year with the intent of bringing a diverse set of ideas and viewpoints into our community. This last year, Anastacia-Renee visited classrooms and spoke to students in multiple grades. Anastacia-Renee is a multi-genre writer, educator, and interdisciplinary artist, and has served as the Seattle Civic Poet from 2017-2019. Students Elena (’23) and Amelia (’21) created the questions for this interview.

How or why did you decide to become a poet?


I think poetry chose me! I don’t believe in my case that I chose to be a writer. I have always written and I knew that I would use writing in my work. I choose to continue to write because I believe literature is important. I believe new work is important. I believe poets and writers are oracles, griots, prophets, storytellers, change-makers.

What message do you want to spread through your writing?


There isn’t one message I spread in my writing. I think that’s the beauty of poetry. There can be one hundred or one million messages.

If you could go back in time, what message would you give your younger self?


I would tell my younger self:
1. Don’t conform.
2. Be courageous and take risks!
3. Continue taking piano and violin lessons.
4. Remember you are as small and as big as the sun, ocean, moon, stars, and dust.
5. Stay curious.
6. Question things (respectfully).
7. Appreciate your elders.

What is some advice you would give to aspiring writers or poets?


1. Be prepared for rejection, feeling isolated, and not everyone being just as excited as you are about writing.
2. Be prepared to change lives, enlighten, and bring about change.
3. If you want to be published, you’ll need to work hard, research, ask questions, have more than one draft, edit, and be persistent.
4. Talk to other writers.
5. Read the writing of other writers and poets often.
6. Take copious notes and journal often.
7. Attend poetry readings.

Was literature/writing an important part of your life when you were young? Has the significance of writing changed over time?


Yes, it was. The significance is still just as important to me, the difference is that it is also part of my “job” or work.

How does being a poet change the way you look at the world and how you go about your everyday life?


The greatest gift poetry has given me is to be able to see things from fifty points of view. Doing this in the real word helps me to understand humanity better and reminds me of our overlapping qualities and to celebrate our uniqueness.

What differentiates poetry from other forms of writing, like prose or song? How is poetry a unique and individual expression?


For me one of the most important elements of poetry is imagery and realizing its the poet’s job to transport the reader from the “real world” to the world the poet created in the poem.

For you, what is the most important element of poetry?


The most immediate thing that separates poetry from fiction and non-fiction is the length. Poetry and prose definitely have some overlap, and some prose is also poetry! I also think that poetry on the one hand is arguably harder to comprehend because if it were art, it would fall into the category of an abstract painting. So much of it is up to the personal interpretation of the reader. Some readers want a concrete beginning, middle and end—poetry doesn’t often do that. I also think poetry has a more diverse list of sub-genres, and kinds. For instance, all of these poetic devices fall under the heading of poetry: The Ghazal (Rumi), The Bop (Afaa Weaver), The Duplex (Jericho Brown), Collage Poetry (Claudia Rankine) Persona Poems (Patricia Smith), Love Poems (Pablo Neruda), the list could go on forever!


Telling Stories (1)

you want to tell
your babies
don’t be gristle
don’t be 3 day old bread
or burnt church
or hanging rope
but who can tell
a black _____
all is well-all is well

Telling Stories (2)

there is
a suspect
a thief
a door (wide open)
tell yourself
to stop robbing
your own cemetery
stop pilfering your
own flowers at dusk

What are You Gonna Be

for halloween
i should have been
graveyard & you
(you there)
can dress up as a
black body
drape caution tape
around your
shoulders & do your
best impression of
yeeesssss hunty
all your hunt
happening daily
all your masks
just as real
as the plot

As a young writer, it’s always neat to have a literary figure to look up to. In the past, I’ve bought poetry anthologies, collections by some of my favorite poets, which I’ve pored over only to abandon on a bookshelf several months later. But to me, there’s a massive difference between buying a compilation of poems by an admirable poet and having one come to your school and do a reading. When Anastacia came and read her poetry, I was quite literally hanging on the edge of my seat, craning my neck to see the woman at the podium over the heads of the students in front of me, holding on to her every word. Anastacia’s poetry was (and is) raw, honest, awe-inspiring—even more so hearing the poet herself speak those words.

Insecurity tends to follow me around wherever I go, especially in my writing. Even if I know I will be the only one to read it, I view my poetry through the eyes of a thousand critics. But in the crowded TALI Theatre the day Anastacia did her reading, she told us that rather than wanting to please the audience or awaiting others’ approval, she wanted her poetry to make people feel uncomfortable. Since then, I have kept that sentiment in mind when I write. I don’t write to conform to others’ expectations. I don’t write to prove anything to anyone else. My writing is a direct expression of myself, a peek inside my mind—and after hearing Anastacia speak, I have realized that how I express myself should not be determined by the opinions of others.

—Amelia (’21)