1. How did you discover you were a poet?
I want to have a strong answer for this, or a particular moment in mind, but I think I’m still discovering that I’m a poet. I’ve always known that I’m a writer, for as long as I’ve been a reader. When I was small I really fell in love first with the way words paint any picture however you please, and the sweet sounds they can make when they’re placed just so. I remember learning what a metaphor and simile are in the second grade, and writing something about the way a mountain was snowcapped looking like it was dusted with powdered sugar. We had to share them out loud, and in my 7-year-old brain, my classmates were shook in response. And that. I was like I want to do more of that. My writing, no matter how rhythmic or floral or full of symbols as I’ve always liked, I never considered to be poetry until a great professor of mine at CU Boulder, Bird, gave me a critique that my fiction pieces were too image driven and the story was lost. And it was painfully true. I remember thinking, but the story is the image, and from then I’ve focused more so on how to tell resonate stories through evocative images. I like the scanty freedom of being a poet-teller. But I don’t let myself think I’m a poet unless I’ve written enough a particular day.
2. Where is your favorite place to write in the Denver metro area?
I feel most inspired by what I see on my walks everyday, I walk nearly everywhere. I keep in the notes on my phone disconnected lines or phrases about things I see or feel unfolding. I also have some great people watching and listening from my bedroom window in Capitol Hill. If I have the time or make the time to be at home to write, I prefer that. Observing, not absorbing the energies of everything happening outside in a space I’ve made sacred to me is such a yummy luxury, I feel like. Especially because I’m a loud writer, I have to say everything.
3. What role do you believe poets should play in today’s society?
What Toni Morrison said “this is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is so room for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” I’ve had those words posted in my bedroom since the 2016 election. I believe poets set a cadence for society’s feeling and sharing and connecting. Do the hard work of being daringly truthful, the hard work of setting your guts to music, the especially hard work of sharing. That’s how we inspire empathy, keep our communities’ creative blood pumping, and resist.
4. Who is someone you consider inspirational to your life/work and why?
The women in my family have been deeply inspirational to both my life and work. They are or were badass, profoundly faithful and fierce lovers. If you heard my mother speak, you’d know. The music in her voice is undeniable in every tone of voice and always matches the weight of her words, not to mention when she sings. I’m continuously inspired by her grace and the way her words dance. My grandmother Leslie’s croons were more like cacophony and her distinct voice, love for hyperbole, and the familiarity of her favorite words and phrases to repeat, I often try to channel as the voice of my poems. I’m obsessed with who I am because of the women who made me and I think in many ways my desires to love really well and to be really truthful come from a desire to live what I feel is an expression of the dreams passed on to me by them.
5. How does your personal story influence the themes and content of your writing?
Most of my childhood memories are centered around church. I loved it. Thinking back, what I think I loved most are the traditions, the ritual of it all, the feelings of community, the storytelling, the song. I love the act of communion, of a whole room together really cleansing and visualizing the blood and body of sacrifice. It’s beautiful. My writing is really influenced by the phases or my experiences and relationship with spirituality and is always reflective on my Christian upbringing. Since being a kid in church, and now as a writer I’ve been captivated by the feeling of being told a story, sharing it with someone whose never heard it, with ritual, repetition, universal feelings, redemption, and an otherworldly purpose and fate.
6. What fictional character do you most relate to and why?
Ohh, Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables, Anne most absolutely with an E. My mom showed me the 80s PBS adaptation of Anne of Green Gables and passed on to me the first book, because it is also one of her favorites, and I melted. I still melt every time I revisit Anne, and when they released the new Netflix adaptation. I’ve identified so very strongly with her for as long as I can remember for deep admiration of words and stories, her exceedingly dramatic nature, passion heavily applied to everything, and fierce love— I feel.
Katie Marie Carlton is a weirdo black girl poet residing in Denver, CO. Her eke-name, her mystic Sasha Fierce, is Ever-Lee G—in awe of the epic resilience of Ever Lee Hairston and the strong women who flow through her own blood. Ever-Lee G’s poetry indulges in obsessions, is radically truthful, icky and sexy. As a senior at the University of Colorado at Denver, her major has shifted from musical theatre, to journalism, to social work, to English education, and now creative writing to accommodate her overwhelming love for connecting, sharing, and empathizing that drew her down each academic path. Busy changing her mind, you can’t read her work any where but her journals and professors’ Dropboxes yet. She is currently at work on her first full collection, Yellow Fever, and illustrating a picture book. You can connect with her on Instagram @km_carlton where she posts her face, photography, mood boards, and woo-woo ponderings. Upcoming, you read more from her at ever-lee.com.
Featured image by Alexandra