Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Poetry speaks when otherwise there is silence"

Emdad Rahman interviews Poet Kai Coggin

"The best way to inspire creative young minds is to tell them that their voice is important, that it is unique in the world and there is no other voice like it." Kai Coggin

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.

Kai recently authored Periscope Heart, which is her first full length collection of poems. My copy arrived with a personalised message and card. I read with good measure and took my time to digest the array of rainbows and sunbeams sent my way.

Kai holds a Bachelor of Arts in Poetry and Creative Writing from Texas A&M University and 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 released summer 2014 called Journey of the Heart.

Kai released her first chapbook, In Other Words, in August 2013. Periscope Heart is her first full length book and was published by Swimming with Elephants Publications in September 2014. She is also a teaching artist with the Arkansas Arts Council, who loves to go into the classrooms to teach her love of poetry and creative writing.

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 Maxine's, reading her poems into an open mic, hoping the wind carries her words out to the world.

She said: "I am most inspired to write poetry by moments of beauty that are delivered to me from a higher realm, a deeper dimension. Sometimes, I will be experiencing something beautiful and everything begins to slow down and become almost twinkly, like I have a chance to inspect all of the word-hungry details of the moment and taste every color and sound with the upcoming composition of a poem.

"I am always reminded of the quote by Anais Nin, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” This happens with my life and writing. I experience something, and as it is happening, I get this inner voice saying, “Pay attention, there is a poem here!”

"Beauty is a source of poetry for me, but so is the lack of beauty, both love and loss, darkness and light, spiritual striving and the hell of illusion. It is a spectrum of experience, and I never know when the inspiration will hit, but I always hope to be prepared to take it all in and do it justice with my words."

Part of Kai's vision is to inspire creative young minds: "The best way to inspire creative young minds is to tell them that their voice is important, that it is unique in the world and there is no other voice like it.

"As a former High School English Teacher, I saw the difference that this simple statement made with my students. When they were given the creative freedom to write poems about their identity, using their own untamed and unique voice, the products were cathartic and beautiful pieces of writing that conveyed the "under the surface” wonder of each student. To be inspired, they need to know they have a voice, but also, that their voices will be heard.

"Young people need mentors, teachers, family members, community leaders, coaches, band directors, orchestra directors, adults in general to step in and listen. Listening to a blooming child, giving him/her a safe space to create, and encouraging their individuality and power of voice; this is how to inspire creative young minds."

And how does poetry make the world a better place? "Poetry speaks when otherwise there is silence, when otherwise there is media or money at the mouth of an issue. Poetry speaks for the broken and the disillusioned, for the misfits and the rebels. I believe poetry has the potential to wake people from the sleep of life, and remind them of a subtle existence just behind the veil, where metaphors and imagery can paint anything into a poem. Poetry is expression, it is an expression of feelings, it is love and life and loss and and joy and destruction and millions of voices, simultaneously writing the story of the human experience.

"There will always be poets. Through the wars and the peace, through the growing pains of the new-world crowning in the birth-canal of a darkened past, there will always be poets. Poetry makes the world a better place because it is the collective voice of the people, the real people. It’s out there. It’s happening right now. Someone is writing a poem as you read this. Someone is permeating the noise with the sound of their own beating heart."

Kai's creative workshops are always different. She likes to gauge a workshop based on who is attending, who needs what, and how She can best utilise the time and space to provide the safety of writing in a non-judgmental and open creative field. Kai's workshops range from a single class or to a few weeks, and the focus is bringing the art of poetry to the forefront of peoples’ lives, even for a short time, to show them it is a beautiful process of discovery.

"Poetry is a gateway to expression that many people never try to use," she says.

"It may be confusing at first, this search to find your voice, but once it is discovered, there is no turning back and the process is exhilarating. I like to give aspiring writers, young and old, the basic tools for creating. Like giving a painter a brush and paints, I give writers poetic devices such as metaphor, imagery, meter, diction, simile, rhyme, alliteration, assonance, forms and freedom. I put these tools in the back pocket of their minds and provide prompts and ideas for writing. Then, we write together. I write while they write, so they can see that I am also going through the process, using the tools, and thinking poetically about the same topic."

Kai's future plans include becoming a world-famous author, once Periscope Heart hits the top of the New York Times Best Seller List: "I’m still waiting. As for now, I am a poet watching the world as it turns, floating with the moments that turn the mundane into the extraordinary."

Periscope Heart is an extraordinary collection of poetry.

The collection itself encapsulates the reader in a myriad of warm and glowing emotions.

Coggin is devoted to her art and the words within manifest like colourful rainbows. In fact it helps to read in parts - close eyes, contemplate, read on.

The best thing about Coggin's collection is the delicious anticipation and the sure expectation that there is more to follow this excellent compilation. It is a collection that will spark your verdure, vigour and vim.

Periscope Heart is available on Amazon and

Limited edition signed copies are also available. 

Photo credit: Jeremy Rodgers, of Hot Springs Hot Spots Magazine. 

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