Christopher K.P Brown: Your last chapbook, Catalyst, was released in 2009. How was that project received?
Candice Iloh: That project was truly a blessing to watch grow and go out to those who purchased it. It was received by the community really well. Far greater than I had imagined. What had started out as a test of my capabilities...almost an experiment, turned out to be a discovered passion and a sort of void filled for a lot of poetry readers. I was amazed at how fast I sold out. Still can't believe it.
KP: How does your new collection of poems, And Become, differ from Catalyst?
CI: And Become actually features an updated version of some of the material that was in Catalyst but a whole new slew of poems that I have written since my last publication. The main difference between the two projects is growth of the author and growth in perspective. Catalyst was about stepping out and acknowledging some things. And Become is about embracing and being unapologetic about who your experiences have aided you in growing to be.
KP: What are three of your favorite poems from And Become and why?
CI: Wow. That's a difficult choice to make. My favorites shift often but I'd have to say, right now, "Self", "Body Art," and the Vagina Poem. Those three speak very specifically to where I am right now as far as my identity and the perspective my experiences have given me thus far.
KP: There are three poems in this collection that follow specific rules as far as structure is concerned. Why did you decide to add these pieces and how often do you write poems based on a specific structure?
CI: I did that because it was important to make this project a bit more interactive than the last. I felt like the readers of Catalyst got to witness a lot of things happening to me while I was in college whereas in And Become, the reader can identify with more of it and take themselves to a place where they can re-experience some things on their own as well. I actually don't do a lot of structured writing. Most of my favorite/best poems were written in moments where I didn't have the time nor the patience and concern to stylize what I was doing. However, the exercises I included are for people like myself who need a push to get started sometimes and for those who don't want just any push. But a push that will
bring out some things in their writing that they had not focused on before.
KP: What sparked the poem This Is Not Sacrilege?
CI: This Is Not Sacrilege is really a snap shot of my spiritual development. It was a very scary poem to write, actually. It was one of the first times I had declared some beliefs and questions and thoughts that didn't align with how I was raised, religiously. This Is Not Sacrilege is a development of an old poem that was sparked by the several conversations I used to have with my father about prayer and religion. I was struggling with an inner conflict with the idea of destiny and purpose co-existing with the belief that things do or do not happen because of our prayers. I've since evolved a lot more spiritually but that was a time when I had just begun to question as I encourage everyone to do.
KP: You have a poem in And Become titled 22. It's addressed to your father. How did he respond to this poem? Also, how difficult is it for you to write personal poems such as 22?
CI: My dad actually hasn't read that poem. He will when he gets a copy of my book....hahaha. *wipes sweat*
Well the difficulty is rarely in writing the poems. I'm a lot bolder on paper and on stage. It's why I love this craft. The difficulty is in the conversations that get me to the point of writing these poems or the conversations they facilitate afterward. Like, I'm probably going to have a pretty tough conversation with my dad after he reads this project. And I'm okay with that.
KP: Are there any overall messages that you would like readers to take from this collection?
CI: Yeah. I would like for all of my readers to read it with an open mind and take pride in everything that has lead them up to this point in their lives. Whatever and whomever they were regretting or ashamed of up until this point, let it go and embrace the process of becoming who they are.
KP: You've described your poetry as literary therapy. Can you tell us about an experience where your poetry has served as therapy for someone else, whether someone reading your work or someone seeing you performing at a poetry event?
CI: Aw, man. There have been many of those, really. It's what has catapulted me into the position that I'm in right now. I started performing because it was a suggestion. I continued because of the kind of responses I received. Facebook messages, emails, and dialogue after features. Strangers, friends, and other poets have confessed personal things to me about themselves, their families, and things they've seen after hearing my work. I can't begin to tell you how many people have told me they could see themselves in my poems. I can't begin to describe what that means to me. But it really means everything.
KP: Do you have any performances coming up for people who may want to see your poetry performed live?
CI: Oh yes! I will be featuring this coming Thursday, July 12th in Philly at Jus' Words hosted by Ms. Wise. Then featuring July 25th at Sparkle (5th & K busboys & poets) in DC hosted by Regie Cabico. Then featuring July 27th at BE FREE Fridays in Baltimore hosted by Love the Poet. Everyone should come. I love seeing everyone.