Writer Interview: Idalis Harris

This week’s interview is with Idalis Harris! Idalis is an 18 year old poet from Los Angeles and is currently studying at Arizona State University. Her poems have been published in Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine twice, in July 2016 and January 2017.

When and why did you first start writing?
I first started writing when I was 8 I believe. As a child, I wrote silly, stupid songs with my friends. I did choir for 6 years and took piano and music lessons for 3 years as a kid. So I had a basic understanding of music but I’m really not great at creating melodies. So by the time I was 17, I started to write poetry because it gave me a way to still write in some form of rhythm without being constricted to music. I don’t know why, but I tend to think in rhyme and rhythm. It sounds super cliché but phrases that pop up and stick in my head are usually in some form rhythm or rhyme that I have to write down. And I mostly feel obliged to write it down because I know the words that are stuck in my head are reflective of what I’m feeling or what I’ve been through.
What was favourite book as a child?
As lame as it sounds, I really loved the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books growing up! I specifically remember my mom once telling me to “suck it up” as I was weeping to a story someone wrote in the book about a dog’s owner dying! To this day I love those books because they are mostly nonfiction stories written by normal people. I find real life much more fascinating than fantasy tales. (Not that I don’t love Harry Potter too).
What do you enjoy writing, and what do you find yourself writing about most often?
I think what I love most about writing is getting something off my chest. One of my favorite feelings is when I finally get the words that have been stuck in my head down on paper. Or my phone. I tend to write about myself. Sometimes I write about my family but I get most of my inspiration from my own life. Because I am my own primary source of the events I’ve experienced throughout my life that have made me the person I am today. And I like to write exactly what I’m feeling. The problem I have with writing about other people and their experiences is that I don’t know exactly what they’re feeling (or what they’ve felt). And I wouldn’t want to give a false account of someone else’s experience(s).
Where do you write? Do you have a writing space or a particular process/routine?
Oh I write anywhere! Anytime a thought comes up. One time, I wrote a three page poem on a bus because I had all these words and I needed to record it! However, I find that most of my words come to me at night. So usually I wake up at random hours late at night and sit on the floor to jot down phrases. And I can’t sleep until all my words are written down! I never force myself to write though. I’m a firm believer that the best writing starts out as a word vomit of ideas and phrases that are then organized into a piece. When writing is thought out and planned, it’s very obvious to the reader.
What’s your favourite word?
I don’t know why but I’ve been saying the words “palette” and “palate” a lot recently. When it comes to food, voice, taste, art, etc. I really don’t know why. I think it’s because those two words are both used for categorizing things. Like a palette for colors or a palate for food tastes. I use those words a lot in describing myself (or others) food preferences or art aesthetics. I like those words because it gives me a way of identifying someone’s personality.
What do you find the most difficult or challenging about writing?
Finding the right words! Oddly enough! You know when you have a rhythm in your head and you’re jotting down words at lighting speed, and then you can’t think of a word that fits with the message you’re trying to get across or the rhythm of the poem? Ugh it’s the worst feeling. Sometimes I have to put a poem aside and come back to it later once I have inspiration. Sometimes it takes days of writing, taking breaks, and revising to finally finish a poem. But eh, you can’t rush art.
Tell me about the piece of work that you are most proud of writing, or about the writing accomplishment you are most proud of.
I remember in the fifth grade, it was required that all fifth graders at my school write a graduation essay, as our elementary school graduation into middle school was coming up. And one essay from each fifth grade classroom would be voted to speak at the graduation. By the student who wrote it. I was fairly new to my elementary school, had a few friends, and I was terrified of others hearing my writing. But I wrote my essay and spoke it nonchalantly to the class thinking nothing would become of it. Then my teacher announced that my class had voted my essay to speak at graduation! I was in complete shock because it was the first time that people (besides my parents, of course) that really liked what I had to say through my writing. It was from my speech at my fifth grade graduation that I stopped being afraid to put myself out there and show others my writing.
What are your writing plans, goals or dreams for the future?

I just hope to keep writing poetry. I’ve also started submitting political articles to publications because I’m passionate about politics as well. I would love to have a side career in political journalism and poetry while my main focus is in acting. I go to school for theatre at Arizona State University but I know that no matter what I’m doing with acting, I know I’ll always be writing on the side. I don’t think I could survive without writing down my thoughts!

Would you like to take part in an interview for the Peeking Cat blog? Email editor@peekingcatpoetry.co.uk

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