Laura Da’ | Interview

Kenneth P. Gurney. Tells us how you started in poetry? What age?

Laura Da’. I started writing poetry at seventeen. I was a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe and I had the good fortune to find myself in Arthur Sze’s poetry class.

KPG. What is your favorite breakfast?

LD: I like very hot coffee and eggs over medium with two slices of toast.

KPG. Does your university degree(s) influence your writing of poetry and how?

LD: Sometimes I am apt to dismiss my university degrees are superficially unrelated to my work as a poet, but on a deeper level, I use all the skills I developed in one way or another. I was just teaching my seventh graders how to formulate research questions and I went right home and did the exact same thing to help me get a poem off the ground.

KPG. Is there any endeavor that you are passionate about outside of poetry? How does it enrich you?

LD: I love teaching sixth and seventh grade. I love being a parent to my son who is six.

KPG. Tell us about one of your favorite poetry experiences.

LD: What I love best is to be in the audience at a truly electric reading. Seattle is a fantastic city for readers and writers and there are times when you look around after a reading and realize that you are united in a shared experience of tremendous power.

KPG. Do you have a connection to the American Civil War? Relative who served? Visited a battlefield and have a story?

LD: I have a Shawnee ancestor who advocated for my tribe in the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War. My Shawnee ancestors were living in Kansas at that time and their homes were destroyed in the conflict. This was ultimately used as an excuse to remove the community south into Indian Territory.

KPG. If you could wave a magic wand and place a poetry book into every high school english classroom as required reading, which one would it be and why?

LD. I think my wish would be less about a particular book and more about exposure in general. I wish poetry were presented as a vibrant, living form of expression. I always tell my students that poetry has the space for that human ambiguity and questioning that is so important when you are growing up. That said, Joy Harjo.

KPG. Where was your last selfie taken?  With anyone?

LD. No selfies—too much selfie-loathing.

KPG. Recommend a poetry (or literary) website that you frequent.

LD. https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/materials-teachers. I use it all the time. It is a thoughtfully curated site that is useful for educators but I also use it as a poet for inspiration.

KPG. What is your favorite National Park? Why?

LD. I love Yellowstone. I can’t wait to take my son there.

KPG. Do you have a dream that you work toward achieving at this time? If so, please tell us about it.

LD. Advocacy is at the center of my dream. I want to be a stronger teacher for my students and I want to do more to disrupt the institutional racism that hampers their success.

KPG. If there is a little known poet you think everyone should read, who is that poet and which book of theirs should we seek?

LD. Olio [at Wave Books] by Tyehimba Jess is currently ripping the top of my head off with its brilliance and courage. I also love James Thomas Stevens and Santee Frazier. I am excited to read Joan Kane’s new book.

KPG. If you could be present at any moment in history as a safe observer or unsafe participant, what event would you visit and why?

LD. I’d like a peek at the near future. I have concerns about the next few years.

KPG. What reoccurring themes have you noticed in your poetry over the years?  Is there a point of personal experience you revisit often?

LD. One theme is the power of counter-narratives to question, subvert, and examine the injustices and falsehoods of American history. I have a strong pull to Shawnee history and my own family stories.

KPG. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, or no chocolate at all?

LD. Very dark.

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