Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Interview With Kai Coggin

Welcome to The Women Behind The Poetry, where we interview women from the 'Journey of The Heart: Women's Spiritual Poetry Project'!  

Today we introduce you to the dynamic and inspired Kai Coggin, a full-time poet and freelance writer from Hot Springs, Arkansas, who delivers powerful messages through her poetry. 

When and how did you first begin writing poetry?

I first began writing poetry in high school, but dont really recall specifically important poems until college.  I was in an emotionally hostile environment as a member of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M.  My spirit and identity were stifled, and my femininity and sexuality became a target for hazing and abuse.  Poetry became the only life raft that I had; a way to keep my sanity when it felt as though my soul and light were slipping further and further away. 

I changed my major from Biomedical Science to Poetry and Creative Writing and met my mentor and creative writing professor, Dr. Chuck Taylor, who told me that my work reminded him of Mary Oliver and Anais Nin.  He called me a Neo-Beatnik Poet, and I felt like someone finally COULD SEE ME.  I put everything into my writing, and removed myself from the negative situations that were trying to get the best of me.

Poetry became a constant touchstone, a friend through growing pains, a lover when my lovers failed me, poetry was and is always there.  Poetry is one of the most important pieces of my life. 

Which subjects are easiest for you to write poems on?

It is easiest for me to write about Love, in its myriad forms. I write a lot about my love for women. There is this ongoing love letter that I have in my mind, writing itself over and over again in poems. These poems are to my beloved, to strangers, to a lover I havent met yet, to a child, to the Cosmos, but the common thread is always there; my heart.

Which subjects are the hardest for you to write about?

It is hardest for me to write about issues of justice, but on occasion, my soul gets pulled to do that work, to shine light on issues such as female genital mutilation in Africa, the plight of sea creatures, fascism, war, genocide, racism, political manipulation, womens rights, gay rights, the list goes on.  Humanity is suffering right now, and it is the responsibility of the poets and the artists to acknowledge that suffering, but also to provide a beacon of hope, a light at the end of a desolate tunnel.  That can be the most difficult part for me, finding that light in a seemingly hopeless situation.  I do not like to leave my readers/listeners without hope, or in the dark.

When are some of your sources of inspiration in writing poetry?

Beauty.  Beauty is the biggest catalyst for my poems.  There could be a moment that I share only with nature, or with my family, my dogs, a solitary bird, a passing cloud, digging for crystals that are millions of years old, or just silence.  Silence brings the Divine, opens my eyes to the Oneness.  Besides Beauty calling me to write, I am most inspired by when a phrase pops into my head from some higher source, or from some passing thought.  Usually, I will build an entire poem from one phrase that keeps on pulsating in my head until I write it out.  When I sit down to write, the words pour out without edit, without blockage.  I am very lucky in that aspect of writing. 

What is your biggest fear or hesitation when deciding to share a poem with the public, and how do you move beyond it?

I dont really have any hesitation with sharing my poems with the public.  I feel like I am bringing my light to the table by sharing.  Some people may not care for my spiritual poems, or my conscious/aware/cosmic subject matter, but I am not going to hide my work to appease anyone.  People have told me how much my poems have helped them, or made them believe in love, or made them want to hug their children, or made them strive towards their higher selves.  I will not silence my Art.  Not ever.

What is the most profound, meaningful or enlightening discovery you have made while writing poems?

While writing poems, I have been able to tap into (what feels like) a Cosmic pulse that I cannot really achieve by other means.  I do not meditate or practice yoga.  I write poems.  I look at the world around me with a microscope or magnifying glass, and freeze moments with my mind in order to dive face-first into the beauty of it, unpack it so that it may live forever. I will sit down to write sometimes, and this energy, this flow comes THROUGH me.  It is something that I hope to always be able to touch.

How is writing poetry a spiritual process for you?

I have been documenting the literal journey of MY heart in poems for a while now, documenting the striving of my soul as it burns through attachments and instances of trauma that shaped me into the numbed and broken person that I was just six years ago.  My poetry had new fire breathed into it when I met my Teacher and dearest friend, Joann, who has helped me break out of the subconscious patterns and chains of my painful past.  My past was not all bad, of course, but there were some painful moments that shaped me into a woman that I did not really want to become.  Over the past six years of knowing Joann, and learning to see myself as my Self, my SOUL, my poetry has been evolving infinitely. I am embracing the transcending nature of my being, and writing from a level that I had never achieved before, with eyes and heart more open to the world.

What function or role has writing poems played for you in your life?

Early on in my adolescent life, writing was more of a release for me, a therapeutic exercise, a diary of secrets, a collection of words that I wrote but could never say.  Now, writing is still those things for me, but I share my work with anyone willing to read/hear it.  I know that my feelings, my experiences, my doubts, my fears, my joys, my struggles are not solely mine, are not exclusive to my human experience.  I know that when I overcome a great struggle in my personality, or have a renewed purpose in love, and I can write that into a poem, I am helping the collective consciousness in some way.  We are all connected. My waking up is your waking up. Your overcoming is my overcoming.

Name some of your favorite poems, poets or poetry books.

I love anything by Rumi (especially The Book of Love), Rabindranath Tagore, Kahlil Gibran, Torkom Saraydarian, Mary Oliver, Sappho, Adrienne Rich, Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Hafiz, Ai, Shakespeare, e. e. cummings, Ani Difranco.  I love the writing of Anais Nin and Jeanette Winterson (my absolute favorite); their writing touches me as poetry does. 

Some contemporary poets that have spoken to my heart with Beauty and Fire include Andrea Gibson, Jamaal May, Jeremy Radin, Rachel McKibbens, Airea D. Matthews, Dominique Christina, Muggs Fogarty, Natalie E. Illum, Ashlee Haze, Siaara Freeman, Sarah Myles Spencer, Katie Wirsing and Tarfia Faizullah.

What effect does reading the poems of others have on you?

Reading the poems of others puts me into their body almost, like I can see through their eyes, feel with their hands, experience with they heart. It is necessary, as a poet, to read what other poets are writing, and to see where your words sit among other words, how they float in the ocean of poems that are written every day all over the world. 

How did you first discover Journey of The Heart?

I discovered Journey of The Heart, through the updates of the Womens Spiritual Poetry page on Facebook, and then moving over and checking out the blog.  It is a wellspring of pure Beauty.  I am so honored that the amazing Catherine Ghosh requested that I send her a poem to be included in this remarkable anthology. It is like joining hands with a circle of artists, and servers, and seekers, and knowers. I feel so seen in this space, and I am so filled with gratitude for that.

Have you publicly shared your poetry before doing so via this project?

Yes, I share my poetry online through my blog and I occasionally share poems on my Facebook page.  I love to share my work, and to hear whether people love it or hate it, whether it strikes a chord in them, or makes them think, or they just appreciate the beauty. 

I also share my work almost every week at a local Open Mic here in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where I live.  It is a poetry series called Wednesday Night Poetry and it is the longest running poetry open mic in the country; it has been going strong for over 25 years WITHOUT EVER MISSING A SINGLE WEDNESDAY.  I try to write a new poem every week to share, and that is a challenge that I gave myself when I started attending the open mic a year ago.  The people who attend WNP are like my creative family, especially Chuck Dodson, the host.  He has been this constant source of encouragement and support for me.  Hot Springs, as a community, has been a tremendous source of creative support for me this year, and I think that living in such a welcoming and nurturing artistic community has allowed me to have all of the successes that I have had over the past few months (getting invited to a writing retreat in New York, getting featured in a statewide newspaper, and the upcoming publication of my book, PERISCOPE HEART).  I am truly blessed to be where I am in this moment.

What has been your general experience of sharing your poetry on Journey of The Heart?

Journey of The Heart is a confirmation of my work as a (striving to be) conscious poet. It is a validation from the Universe that my poems and my heart are being heard.  Being included in this anthology is of tremendous importance for me, because I can see the healing and the beauty and the power that a collection of this kind is going to be when it is released on this upcoming Full Moon. Thinking about it makes my hair stand on end.  The pages are charged with the energy of 65 women and their WIDE OPEN HEARTS.  I cannot wait to fully immerse myself in this magic.

Any last words you’d like to share about poetry?

Poetry is something that means a great deal to me, and I hope to continue working on this craft with all of the awareness, the openness, the honesty, the healing, the surviving, the breaking open that I can muster. My personal poetic journey thus far will be released at the end of this year, in my first full-length collection, PERISCOPE HEART, published by Swimming With Elephants Publications. I am so excited to see what my next steps will be in this vast world of words.

Kai Coggin is a full-time poet and freelance writer born in Bangkok, Thailand, raised in Southwest Houston, and currently a blip in the 3 million acre Ouachita National Forest in Hot Springs, AR.   She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Poetry and Creative Writing from Texas A&M University.  She writes poems of feminism, love, spirituality, injustice, metaphysics, and beauty.  Kai has been published in Elephant Journal, Cliterature, The Manila Envelope, [empath], Catching Calliope and an anthology to be released this summer called Journey to the Heart. She released her first chapbook, In Other Words, in August 2013. Her first full-length book of poetry PERISCOPE HEART will be published by Swimming with Elephants Publications at the end of 2014. Kai knows that words hold the potential to create monumental and global change, and she uses her words like a sword of Beauty.  She can be found most Wednesdays at a local venue, reading her poems into an open mic, hoping the wind carries her words out to the world. Connect with Kai on her blog here, or on Facebook.  


~If you are one of the poetesses from 'Journey of the Heart', and would like to appear in this blog, just click here to request an interview. We are excited to learn more about you!~

~If you write poetry and would like to share it on 'Journey of The Heart', click here for submission guidelines. And thank you for your interest!~