An Evening with Candace Black by Leah Zacate
Candace Black entered, relishing the opportunity to encourage others to write. She faced a room of eager students at Bethany Lutheran College on a Tuesday night. Wearing a sea blue shirt and dangling necklace, Candace discussed how her life experience has molded her most recent book of poems, Whereabouts, published by Snake Nation Press. Throughout the evening, the local MSU Professor read poems from her book and engaged in conversation about her work and writing process.
“This is my second book of poems,” she began, “I don’t have a hard time creating poems, I have a hard time shaping them into a collection.” She noted that creating a complete collection of poems that work together perfectly is a difficult task in itself. Her book of poems, however, felt nothing but complete, with each section retaining to its own theme; that of being unsure of the world as she gets older, autobiographical experiences, and writing triggered by works of art, such as paintings or photographs. She also noted how many poems sprung from the remodeling of her kitchen.
Her obsessions in life are obvious in her poems, and relate to science, the galaxy, the coast, traveling, family, etc. She draws on “what I already know”, giving some background of when she first entered college and was pursuing a nursing degree, which had exposed her to a world of biology and chemistry. Black also informed the audience that writing about something you don’t know won’t seem as genuine as writing about something that you’re excited and knowledgeable about.
In her reading of the second section of her book, she opened with the poem “Homestead Family”, which was triggered by a late 1880’s photo of a family posing in front of a sod house, with three daughters and two sons; “a constellation” she calls it, that mimics her own family. She pulls metaphoric and thematic connections from what might have just seemed like a plain old black and white photo, but to her, it was art. To her, the photo was a reflection of the past and the present, which was clearly visible in her poem.
In the reading from her final section of the book, she explained that her poetry pulls visuals from a time when she was living in a suburb of San Diego. Her visuals range from the desert to the California coast. In her final poem “Salt,” she describes how a woman tastes salt everywhere, because it is evidently a part of life; from birth, to the ocean, to storm, to the body. This poem finishes the book, in a way that causes the reader to feel that the book and its arrangement is complete, because of its detail of a life cycle.
At one point, a member of the audience asked why Black had chosen poetry over any other genre of writing, to which her response was, “Poetry zaps me!” she said, “It makes me feel good. I love reading, and when I get to read and feel that good feeling, I have to do the same thing. It leaves me wanting to do that with my own language. It allows me to recreate what I have read.” Black also discussed her early experiences with writing. When she was in high school, and even when she younger, she would sit on her porch writing short stories that were inspired by Nancy Drew. Candace’s enthusiasm for the art of writing was refreshing- Her face lit up as soon as she talked about inspiration, and how her fingers could sometimes instantly write poems by inspiration.
Candace left her audience pondering the life lesson she gave them, that in order to be a good writer you have to keep writing. “You can’t expect a runner who hasn’t worked his muscles for running, to be in a race, writing is the same.” She talked about having a notebook or index card close by, in case something jolts a hint of inspiration. Candace’s bubbly personality and honest stories completely drew in her audience. Knowing her poems came from a personal place made them more sincere and valuable.
She left her audience with this idea; that writing is a marathon and not a race and that to succeed, you must be steady and work your writing muscles to create a good piece. That writing takes patience, it takes time, and it takes dedication. But most importantly, the topics a person could write about are endless. Even the situation of remodeling of a kitchen can ignite ideas that result in a wonderful collection of poems to be shared with a group of Bethany students.
Leah Zacate is a Senior majoring in English: Multimedia Writing. She enjoys writing fiction and creative nonfiction; and studying Library Science. She is also working on creating a database for the Bethany Lutheran Seminary Archives and hopes to attend graduate school for Library Science.