Interview with the Poet - Part 1

I always loved poetry.  When I was a kid, I used to write.  I even got published once.  Then I grew up and time shrunk.  Poetry, like many little dreams, got put in the attic to collect dust.  Sometimes I revisit that attic, blow the dust from the covers, sit in a comfortable chair, and turn the crackling pages of old memories.  I don't visit as often as I like.  Then two years ago, my best friend of almost a quarter century, published her book.   It is an amazing collection of poetry and prose by T. Leah Fehr, called "der Nackte Künstler".  This took me back, back to the attic again. During my last visit to Calgary, I finally had a chance to spend some time with my best friend. I was allowed to take a few photographs, and ask a few questions.  It's a rare moment, and I'm honoured and proud that I can share these here.  Enjoy.

T. Leah Fehr

When did you start writing poetry?

I started writing poetry as a child.  I clearly remember writing a poem (perhaps my first, but I can’t be sure) when I was about six years old – it was a poem about the true meaning of Christmas.  It was short and poignant and spiritual.  I wish I’d kept it.  I was quite prolific in my teens, and still have a bit of the work I produced back then (despite how expectedly and awfully full of teen angst most of it is).  I took an extended hiatus from writing throughout most of my 20’s (partying, drinking, sex, marriage, career, family, etc...) – I don’t think I produced anything worth reading for close to 10 years.  I actually remember when I finally came out of hiding, poetically speaking... the poem was title ‘Hindrance’, and spoke specifically about my inability to write, and how terribly I missed it.  That was about ten years ago, and since then, my writing has been steady, if not a bit sporadic at times.  I must be inspired, and while inspiration can come in most any form, it can also abandon me completely and without warning, if for only a while.  There are times when life just gets in the way of creativity.

What inspired you to write and publish your first poetry book?

Catharsis.  Nothing more, really.  I needed to rid myself of something that had been poisoning me for years.  Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE this collection, and I’m very proud of it.  It offers some of my best work, to date.  But it’s very close, it’s very raw and I really just needed it out of me.

T. Leah Fehr

Do you have a specific writing style?

No, I don’t think so.  I often find comfort in the challenge of the structure of strict poetic form and lyric, but other times my pen is led by the purity and profanity of freeverse.  I like playing and experimenting with my writing style... I’ve read poets who never stray from one particular form, and I really feel that they’re denying themselves the opportunity to explore and enhance their craft and their creativity... and perhaps missing the chance to discover something new about themselves, which saddens me - why write, especially poetry, if not to learn a little bit more about our Self?

Do your life experiences have any influence in what you write?

Oh, of course... everything I write is spawned by what I experience, what I see, what I feel, what I believe, what I’ve done, what I want, what I love, what I hate, what I’m ashamed of, who I am, who I was, who I want to be, what I want to do, what I’d kill for, who I’d fuck, it goes on and on.  I don’t think a poem can be written that is not somehow influenced by the experience of the poet... at least certainly not one that I’d want to read.

T. Leah Fehr

How did you come up with the title?

The English translation of the title der Nackte Künstler is ‘The Naked Artist’.  A recurring theme throughout the book is that of art and artists, and the relationship between art and poetry; between the artist and the poet.  Who discloses more of themselves through their art?  Who is more genuine?  Who is destined for immortality?  Are they equal in their art?  Artists and Poets expose themselves in everything they create, be it a painting, a portrait, a sculpture, a poem, and novel, a play, a film, an essay... it doesn’t matter.  We are all naked in our art, if we are true to it... that is what makes it art.
But setting all the bullshit aside, I actually came up with the title because an artist friend of mine once put on a show in which he was working in his small studio completely nude, and if you so chose, you could watch him paint, in the nude, through a small peephole in the door of the studio.  It was a unique, if not grossly narcissistic, concept for a show, and the idea of the naked artist stayed with me, and it seemed ridiculously obvious as a title for this collection.  I chose German for the title and chapter headings as a tribute to my heritage and to express my appreciation for the language – it has a certain raw beauty which I love.  And I published under my maiden name, Fehr, out of respect for my heritage and my family name... and because it is who I was, who I am, and who I will always be – it just seemed more honest to me.