Joelle Bahdo - Interview With an Artist vol. 6 | #69
I got interviewed by Maia Wilson about my projects, creative process and more. You can read the interview here.
1. Tell us how you started writing poetry.
First, I want to thank you for asking me to do an interview. It is the first one I do that is related to my writing :)
I usually get asked when I started, and that is quite easy—when I was twelve years old, and my father left for the first time. How I started, however, I am not quite sure. I remember having the urge to write and going to an “everything for 2 bucks” kind of store – the only kind I could afford – and buying my first notebook (which I still have).
I remember being very firm on writing just with pencil. I remember having no real intention towards content or form. I just needed space, so I made myself some within each little square of the notebook’s pages.1 I started writing every day and I considered my writing as journal entries. Only later, I noticed that I wasn’t writing in full sentences and my “paragraphs” were stanzas, with rhythm. I am going to sound very cheesy and maybe even presumptuous now. But the truth is that I never really took the active and conscious decision to write poetry. It just happened out of necessity.
2. What are the main themes that you touch on in your poetry?
My writing is usually autobiographical. I touch on anything I experience. When I first started, I wrote a lot about family issues but also my everyday life and friendship— especially my longing for friends. Then I wrote a lot of “broken-hearted love poems” (a selection of which made Primary Poems). I am currently writing about my body and mental health issues, especially about trusting my body and being able to feel at home in it.
3. How has your writing style evolve?
I think there are two main differences that can be observed. The first is in the language. I shifted from writing in Italian to writing in English in 2017. The second is in the structure. I used to write up to five words per line. Now my sentences are longer and also disposed in a more creative way on the paper as I experiment with formatting more.
4. Where do you get inspiration, except the themes you often touch on?
I mostly write about what I experience. I journal daily, which helps me to keep track of what I do and how I feel. Sometimes these notes are the main source of reference and inspiration. Other times, when I don’t really know where to start, I search for new words to explore and play with.
5. How was the process putting Primary Poems together?
At first, I did not even know I wanted to put a book together at all but I had lots of people around me encouraging the idea. Don’t get me wrong. It felt great to have that kind of support. Now I look back at where I was in terms of maturity and mental health, I sometimes wish I waited a little longer.
Each poem was written in different contexts. For instance, some are the first pieces I wrote in English, and some were originally in Italian. I decided to put together a book in February 2019 and I had it ready two months later. I tried to put the selected pieces in an order that allowed me to tell a story from cover to cover and enhance the meaning of each piece. Then I looked for a publisher and finally my book was out in the world in May 2020.
6. Does your creative process change as you work on your second poetry book?
It did. The way I write and approach my writing changed radically since the first book. Now I schedule writing session. I used to write when I felt like it. Now it takes me days to write a piece and feel that it is complete. While I was putting Primary Poems together, every piece was written in minutes with very little editing.
The second book is ready. But I decided not to rush myself to publication and wait a while for the second book. It is a very hard decision to make but I want to make sure that I am actually ready this time.
7. Apart from writing, how do you deal with the curve balls life throws at you?
Long walks and sports. Focusing on moving my body and reconnecting with myself through my breath is what keeps me sane on most days. But coffee, matcha and talking with people help a lot too.
8. Where can people find you and buy your book?
I am currently revamping my website. It is not ready but it has some information about me and my projects. I post regularly on Instagram @jobahdo and share the most interesting things on my newsletter.
Primary Poems is available both in paperback and ebook, worldwide. You can order it from Amazon (UK), Barnes & Noble, Austin Macauley and many more. A big thank you for these questions and for your readers to make time for me.
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Interview With an Artist series
It is funny how, currently, I need my page to be completely blank (not even tiny dots are allowed) and I write with a specific kind of black pen. Am I the only writer with such obsessions? I hope not.