Originally posted to Facebook on July 22, 2020
Our #WCW is KaNikki Jakarta, poet laureate of Alexandria, VA! We can't wait for her workshop: Making Writer's Block a Myth, which will be presented during the Phenomenal Womxn Festival on August 8th at 12:00 noon.
Here's a Q&A with KaNikki:
Q: Tell us about your journey as a poet-- How did it begin and what led you to where you are now?
A: My mother read Nikki Giovanni’s poetry to me when I was in her womb. She thought of naming me Nikki, but thought Ka Nikki was better so that I could have my own name. My father was a huge Maya Angelou fan and recited her poetry to me often. He was also a fan of Dr. Seuss. I took poetry as a class in Elementary school and started winning poetry contests in 3rd grade. I’ve always liked poetry and rhyming words. This is my foundation and what led me to becoming Poet Laureate. It’s befitting because I’ve been a poet since before I could breathe on my own.
Q: In what ways have your life experiences impacted your work?
A: All ways! The way that one lives and manifests happiness shows in creativity. When I fell in love, I wrote about love, when I became an adult, I wrote adult things. When I was sad or grieving, I wrote those things. People that I meet that have stories that would have been left untold, I tell them. People, who inspire me, sometimes end up in poetry. A poet’s life is a huge inspiration in creation.
Q: As Poet Laureate of Alexandria, you've mentioned you have some freedom to define your role. What are some ways you've made this position your own?
A: Great question! I love to say that I am the Poet for the People. I don’t just do this for myself. Becoming the first African American Poet Laureate of Alexandria, Virginia has been an inspiration to so many. I did not imagine how being honored with this title would bring hope, but it did. I’ve made history and that’s a lot to say for a little black girl from Mobile Alabama who just loved to write poetry in a journal and recite Easter Speeches at church. This title does not belong to me; it belongs to the people who I write for. I’ve set out to present platforms for other creatives to create through open mics, workshops, and even awards ceremonies. You know that whatever words you say after “I am…” manifests. I have manifested this title for myself, I spoke it into existence, but I am happy to share it with whomever it can motivate to follow a dream.
Q: You've described yourself before as a bridge who connects people together; how have you used your job as Poet Laureate to achieve that goal?
A: Being a person who connects others is the gift that God gave to me. I don’t necessarily use the Poet Laureate title to achieve a goal; it is what I recognized that God wanted me to do. So many people asks me the strangest questions from do I know a poet who can sing, to do I know a cleaning company. I realized long ago that my open personality welcomes people. I use it to connect people to their people. For example, I knew a song writer that could not sing, and a singer that was looking for songs. I connected them so that they could make beautiful music together.
Q: Tell us about Write Like a Woman!
A: Happily! Write Like A Woman is an online and in-person quarterly workshop that connects women writers ages 18-100 and welcomes amateur and professional writers from all walks of life and backgrounds. We cover many different topics of writing and build friendships and write great things in one another’s presence. Now in its 5th year, I am happy that I listened to my assistant Kecia who told me to move it to an in-person platform after a year.
Q: When someone attends a Write Like a Woman workshop, what do they walk away with?
A: I’ve heard… courage, camaraderie, writing prompts, ideas, new skills. It depends on the workshop and the people attending. But, I can say that I’ve never seen someone not walk away with a smile.
Q: What advice would you give to young writers?
A: If you want to one day be an old writer; you’d better start now! (smile). If you feel in your heart that you are a writer, that’s what you are, now go tell the world.
Q: What else would you like people to know?
A: I have books on my website www.kanikkij.com available for sale. I’ve written 3 novels in a series, a memoir, two poetry collections and my most recent release ALABAMA GIRL, VIRGINIA WOMAN is a short story and poetry collection. I always offer free workshops, so if you’re following me, you can always grab something free. I host for Busboys and Poets in Shirlington, VA on 1st Mondays at 8 pm EST, but until the world opens, I’ll be hosting on their Instagram. I also present a Prep To Publish workshop on a sliding scale monthly for writers who are aspiring to be authors. The first time I heard the poem Phenomenal Woman in its entirety it was recited by Janet Jackson on the movie Poetic Justice the year I graduated high school in 1993. My favorite color is blue; all shades. I believe in God, myself, and Love. I’m short, but I have the voice of “Let my people go.” I believe that little girls should be seen and heard.