Q&A with Poet Candice Daquin about SMITTEN Anthology – by Robert Okaji

Robert’s Original post 57267655_10215609601567682_3013752463971844096_n

Candice Louisa Daquin was born in France, and has also lived in England, Canada and America. Daquin has worked in dance, publishing, as a psychotherapist and more recently she divides her time between teaching, editing and writing. Daquin is the author of five collections of poetry and numerous poems and reviews in magazines, websites and periodicals. Daquin was co-editor of We Will Not Be Silenced (2018) an anthology of poetry in response to the #metoo movement. This Is What Love Looks Like – Poetry by Women SMITTEN With Women is her first poetry Anthology as lead editor, and is due out October 2019 (Published by Indie Blu(e).

So what’s this Anthology all about?

This is What Love Looks Like – Poetry by Women SMITTEN with Women (SMITTEN for short) came about after Indie Blu(e) had published We Will Not Be Silenced, which was an anthology of poets throughout the world writing in response to the #metoo movement and the then Judge Kavanaugh hearings. It was the right time and the anthology went on to be an Amazon best seller.

There was something so powerful and such an incredible energy working on an anthology for the first time. Shortly afterward Indie Blu(e) asked me to work with them and I now do part time on some of their poetry publishing. I had been so positively affected by reading all these poems from writers throughout the world I wanted to see if it were possible to create another anthology but this time for women who loved women.

As a lesbian, I felt that lesbians were increasingly marginalized and invisible by the co-opting of the LGBTQ movement and I wanted to find a poetic medium to express lesbian voices that was not erotica (which many lesbian themed poetry collections were). Fortunately Indie Blu(e) backed my idea and we put the call out.

Truly I did not expect the response we received, it was so galvanizing and breathtaking to see how many women submitted and the quality of some of the work. Our youngest poet is 14 and our oldest, 87. I think that speaks volumes about the need for collections of poetry on various subjects and how it brings voices together and keeps poetry relevant and alive.

SMITTEN is due out October 2019 and we’re so excited to be part of this, because it’s already begun a really necessary poetic dialogue about the representation of emotions in poetry. For anyone, there is something lasting and beautiful to be found in this collection and it is my hope as many heterosexuals read it as lesbians and bisexuals.

Please tell us how or why you turned to writing poetry?

I wrote as a kid when I felt emotions I couldn’t put into prose. I think for the very young there is a natural doorway into poetry that sometimes we lose as adults. Poetry should be emphasized more, as once it was thought as the highest form of expression and I can see why. Having worked in publishing, teaching and psychotherapy it was always part of my life to write.

Would you offer up some of your influences – poetic and otherwise. What draws you to that work?

Shamefully I am less influenced by others than perhaps I should be. There is so much value to reading a wonderful poet for any creative and I’m sure it does permeate and percolate through to our creative sub-conscious. I tend however to write without direct influence so it’s hard to harness the exact mechanisms involved. Typically I am drawn to work that I find honest and brave. I think for me, as an ex-dancer, I find dance my greatest influence, and like music, it can produce poetry in me when I listen to and watch it. Likewise, reading a psychology book will often inspire me.

What is the relationship of your environment, your daily surroundings, to your writing?

Not as good as it should be. I work too much and never have enough time. Ideally I’d create a haven for writing and devote myself more stringently to the relationship between my environment and writing. Like many of us, I juggle multiple jobs and tasks and am lucky to get any time. Maybe if I retire in 35 years time I may have these things and I expect that is why some poets who are older are such consistently good writers. Working on SMITTEN I loved hearing the varied voices, different parts of the world, different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, even different ways of loving. That has so much value.

What themes or traits will readers find in your work? What will they not find?

They will not find acceptance or tolerance of inequality or bigotry. As much as I may find something of value in the Bukowski and Billy Childish poets of the world, I would never embrace that inequity toward a group of people (women) and I feel strongly as a woman about being unapologetic and very honest. SMITTEN is part of this legacy, it’s lending a voice to those who usually aren’t heard very loudly.

List three favorite poets, an admirable animal, and your go-to beverage.

Oh dear! I’m terrible at listing ‘favorites’ because honestly, it changes all the time. I read a LOT of poetry so for today I can say, Anne Sexton is always up there, I recently re-read a lot of Tennyson and he’s always influential and lastly, I love the Metaphysical poetry movement of the 20’s and just finished a book on those authors – too numerous to mention. In SMITTEN I was absolutely blown away by our 14 year old’s poem. It gave me faith. That poetry has a real future. Equally, I loved that a woman who is 87 is still writing and has an entire history in her words. We also have three Native American poets, who are absolutely superb. Can I put those instead of the admirable animal and go-to-beverage? (Whale/Tonic Water).

And your creative process? Could you offer us a glimpse into how your poems develop from first glimmer to fully realized piece? Do you follow a regular writing routine? Do you listen to music while writing? Write in public or in solitude?

Let me talk instead about SMITTEN. Imagine having the honor of collating poetry from all around the world, written sometimes with the greatest emotion, sometimes the first time it’s been public, or admitted. I found such a brevity and depth to the poems we received and it was truly hard to not want to publish most of them. Obviously we had to turn a lot down in order to make a manageable collection, so we endeavored to seek the truest, starkest and most honest. At times they were not all ‘well written’ as a professor may grade, (having taught for many years I can attest to this!) but technique came second to message. Sometimes there is value in the message even if the technique is a little lacking. That was my approach and I’m proud of it. Many times people with poor technique never improve because they are not given a chance to flourish. I believe everyone can grow and improve, and giving them confidence is half the battle. Obviously a well written poem is like nothing else, and I literally read some whilst holding my breath. Ideally to have both a message and technique is the goal and this was about allowing voices of women who love women to come to the foreground and SPEAK. That was my process. I’ve spent literally hours on this project and I feel only pride for the courage and conviction of these authors. I’m a big believer in helping others, and one way to do that is give them a platform. That’s my greatest achievement. It’s so much bigger than me and I love that. I think I’m a very self-effacing writer and I get so much more from editing/publishing others (which I used to do in Europe) than simply promoting myself.
SMITTEN is due out October 2019. It will be available via all good booksellers.
You can find the incredible work of Poet & Writer Robert Okaji (whom I count as a dear friend) here
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Yehudit

14gottschalk3-jumboWe learned to swim

in the flickering pools of each other’s eyes

desire born in quiet step and curtsy

before I ever touched you outside this dream world

you were the betroth of my sleep

we circled each other in origami folds

acquainting, never strangers, always known

as if time held us apart long enough, to generate

in the deep cry of longing, a hallowed place

where only those destined for the other

shall like painted flowers, made of paper

embrace, release and turn to ink

coloring water the stain of lacquered longing

reborn on latticed wing of desire

to breathe again in the surround of this singular girl

for you, are my pendant, hung close to my heart

you do not tarnish or fade in intensity

you are the twitch in my smile, a muscle pulling

upward each time I think of you

it is as if, with every turning day

a part of me becomes dissolved

like sugar in tea sweetens what is plain

I am able to see in you, what you no longer can

those vestiges you put away

in a box too high for reclaiming

where your silver rings and sunlit hair

lies dormant, replaced by sensible overcooked hours

I was perhaps, born to return color to your cheeks

even as it grows dark I see your

sleek head bowed in feigned peace

knowing if I were admitted into

the sanctum of your unspoken sorrow

where peach hued roses bloom fragrant

there would be a blush again

marking darkness exquisite

as the silhouette of your dusky butterfly

brands my marrow indelibly

for it is simple; two people who did not plan

falling out of the sky, meet the other

everything changes, if they leave behind fear

we are not given wings, if meant to only walk earth

you send me to heights I could not

describe before you walked into my life

claiming my tiptoeing heart

we who are dancers of dusk and dawn

whisper secrets stored so long

out into infinity and beyond

she who is diminutive and siren

hear my song

Compulsion

I just watched the amazing film Bohemian Rhapsody. Let me ask you something … if I begin this post with; “And I wanted to talk about being gay” How many of you would stop reading? Ask yourselves, what does that really say about you?

I want to talk about being gay. Watching the story of Freddie Mercury it struck me (again) how the tiny minority of people who are gay (not bisexual) still struggle. You may ask why or point to more worthy causes to talk about …

Imagine being 1/2 percent of the population. Maybe you already are. That’s how many women are lesbians and men are roughly 2/3 percent. Bisexuality is far more prevalent, however 85% of women who are bisexual end up married to man, which begs the question, is there such as thing as ‘true’ bisexuality’ or is there just a desire to play both sides until you settle down, invariably with someone of the same gender?

Either way, ‘true’ queer women are rare. For men, those who are bisexual tend to end up being with men. It begs the question – do these stats indicate being a lesbian is not a life style many people choose or want to adopt? Or simply, that most women have a tendency toward heterosexuality as their preference?

My unscientific viewpoint for what it’s worth is; Men who have sex with men tend to be with men maybe because to ‘go there’ is almost indelible? Whereas sexuality for women is more fluid, and whilst they may like having sex with another woman and find her attractive, it’s not enough of a hook. Is sexuality and gayness a preference? I don’t think so, which means the ‘true’ number of gays is smaller than we even credit.

I personally don’t understand why more men are gay than women, as I am biased and see a lot more to be attracted to in a woman than a man (although they are harder to go out with because they are more demanding and selfish and less romantic). Irrespective, a man who is attracted to men, doesn’t go back and forth as much, a woman who is attracted to women may well end up with a man as other considerations come into play. To me, this isn’t being gay – it’s just having fun. Maybe I’m saying being gay is massively different to being bisexual.

I would imagine the negatives about bisexuality are; judgment from both sides, and that’s about it. If you are totally gay then the negatives include persecution, ostracizing, not fitting in, having no role models, no representation and most of all – feeling weird because 99/98 percent of the world doesn’t ‘get’ you and where you are coming from.

How many times have I been told by a woman that they find other women attractive but they can’t really understand wanting to be with a woman for any length of time – interestingly not because of sex, most women like oral sex, but because of the high maintenance being with a woman entails and how nice it is when a man romances you. It is true, it’s rarer and finding it with a woman, well you often end up having to do all the work and while men are good at that, women aren’t as much.

Hence why of those relationships that last, the classical butch/femme roles tend to work out best because the lesbians who are butch want to imitate a man and romance the woman and the femme is happy. I realize that’s a negative stereotyping of female-female relationships but there is also some truth.

Thinking about the AIDS era (which has never entirely left us and now that there are new drugs that people can take to reduce their likelihood of HIV exposure, where’s the incentive to continue to practice safe sex?) and how many gay men (and others) died and the terrible things that were said about them and how generations exist now that know nothing of this and how it will be forgotten …

I remember I was very young but I heard people say things like; “AIDS is killing the queers its divine justice” That told me early on that gay people were not equal and would never be treated equally behind closed doors. At one point in my life I was in the closet because it was easier and unlike a person of color, a gay person can often be in the closet to avoid prejudice. I’d not been in the closet before and suddenly I was privy to the things straight people said about gays when they didn’t think one of them was listening. I realized that this had all been said of me when I wasn’t in the closet but behind my back.

Then the other aspect to consider is the gay community and how judging and excluding it can be and how for many queers, fitting in with their own gay ‘family’ doesn’t always come easy or at all. I personally tend not to get on with gays, I have found them to often possess the worst traits of heterosexuals which deeply disappoints me. Lesbians judge you for not being queer enough, or act like swaggering men. Gay men can be such divas that they own the sarcasm and bitchiness in the room.

Does it mean you’re a ‘bad’ queer if you don’t feel in with ‘your people’? And yet … why assume just because you share one thing in common, you’ll get along? I’m sure I share something in common with Trump as well … point made.

The female gay world is divided into sections, either you’re a successful, educated career person in which case you go to exclusive things and judge those who are not on your level. You only date those who are like you, and you have high expectations as well as demanding those women you date are athletic, social and above all, status and financially successful.

The other group are the more neighborhood based gays, and the clubs teem with liars, frauds and fakes alongside players, druggies and alcoholics. If you imagine being heterosexual and reducing the number of options you have from roughly 48% to 1/2% you probably wouldn’t find someone you liked either. And let’s for not forget, if you’re straight and you see someone in the street or anywhere, you can essentially flirt with them without fear. But how can you tell when someone may be gay? Contrary to popular opinion, the gay-dar doesn’t work THAT well. So you are further restricted to mind-reading, falling in love with heterosexuals or going to gay clubs where the worst reside.

Boo Hoo right? A hard life. But not nearly as hard as many others. Combine that with a co-morbidity of higher rates of depression/anxiety (no wonder) and all the accompanying aspects that may accompany homosexuality and a life time of being shamed, ridiculed, the odd one out, and it’s not simply one issue, it’s everything.

There have been times I wished fervently not to be gay. I got fed-up of having a crush on my straight friend who wouldn’t like me if I were the last person standing, I saw how well men can treat women, I envied the heterosexual world. That’s why being gay is no choice, as most who had one, wouldn’t choose it.

That said it’s not all negative. Some of the best parts of my life have been as a result of being gay. Watching the film on Freddie Mercury really affected me profoundly because it reminded me that only a few years ago in my city there were stickers condemning gays having the right to marry, that my own life has been severely disrupted/destroyed for several reasons related to being gay, and how many gays have suffered over the years.

I may not be a huge fan of this modern world – 2018 onward – and I may hark beck to ‘better’ eras as I perceive them, BUT I know things are improving for gays and I hope one day, being gay is not something that will pull you down and give you pain. It will be what it is meant to be, a natural minority who see things differently but are in every other way part of us all.

Spare a thought for gays even as you think they have all their rights now and should stop complaining. It is not as simple as possessing rights. Gays are still more likely to commit suicide, have addictions, mental illness, be ostracized from family and be beaten up and murdered. Gays can often be very isolated, their pain not taken seriously, and feel alone even among ‘their kind’ and it really does make a difference to us when someone, irrespective of gender, befriends us and likes us for who we are, without being uncomfortable around us.

A friend for a gay person has twice the value because we never take it for granted and we always feel so lucky. After all, most of us living, remember a time when admitting you were gay would guarantee nobody would be your friend. Therefore, thank you for all who show kindness to us, and remember, compassion is the only thing that compensates for the erstwhile damage human beings have historically wrought, both on minorities of all kinds and our planet.

I dream of a world where it will be okay to walk down the street and not worry about holding hands with the person you love, when it will be comfortable to kiss someone you’re with, in public, without fearing being beaten up. Just as women worldwide, dream of walking down a street without being raped. I believe this day can come, if all of us have the patience to see the value of talking about this and not saying ‘I’m so fed up with the gay agenda or the feminist agenda’ and switching off. Until we have true equality, the only thing we can do is bring awareness and hope in turn, it produces change.

Oh, and to those bisexuals? Yeah. Sorry. But on the other hand, I’ve got a point. Can’t you sometimes choose the girl? 😉

Go see Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s incredible.

The outsider

38638686_1843766582406138_8072796370370560000_nshe wasn’t like them, so they didn’t like her

to her face they smiled and said ‘nice things’

which she knew were lies

behind her back they laughed

and made dirty-lezzie jokes

because it made them uncomfortable

to think about what they thought she did

it made them feel a bit disgusted

like when you stand too close

she looked like them in superficial ways

wore at times, nicer dresses and had longer hair

the fact that she liked girls wasn’t in their

comfort zone

when it was summer time they had

BBQ’s and invited all the neighborhood kids

wondering if she would be safe around minors or

would do something inappropriate

when they started a mommy running club

she wasn’t invited because she was neither

a mommy or someone they wanted to

bare their secrets with

what would she understand of husbands?

maybe their husbands liked her

because she was unavailable

when it was Halloween they made candy and

knocked on all the doors but hers

because the other mothers said best to avoid

what they did not care to know

that’s why she lived a harder life than she had to

for there is almost nothing worse than pretend friendliness

leaving you more alone than if they said what they thought

and spat in your face

if you think that’s an exaggeration or she feels

sorry for herself

think on the tiny percent of the world

where being gay is safe or legal

and the huge part of the world where it is forbidden or punished

think on how many lament at

the shift in culture toward acceptance

calling it a ruination of our society with all

those damn fags

compare it to those who truly feel inclusive

how every day isn’t the same

when you have to contend with not fitting in

making everyone else feel uncomfortable

just by existing

nor can you talk about what matters to you

just in-case visual images abound and people

begin to change the subject

if it were a choice … a lifestyle … few would make it

yet she exists

wishing sometimes the phone would ring

another girl like her would say

I know how you feel

would you like to go for a walk?

she is a gay princess in a tower

and her princess

is somewhere in the world perhaps

thinking the same thoughts

two outsiders

unable to find each other

Three prongs

pluto_and_persephoneSHE

hasn’t shared a bed with a man

two decades

nor smelt the tenor of his hands weighing

on her sleep

place telescope by the moon

stare at what you do not find familiar

all those girls who wake

next to, wrapped in, rubbed up against

the arms of another species it seems

no reflection of themselves

she has only seen

her own reflection

in the curl of her neck to her shoulder

honeyed wisp of them as they cover

rounded buttocks on the way to dimpled shower

girls instinctively know

what to hide and what to reveal

as cats will roll on their belly in trust

giving just enough

holding a claw in the air just incase

she unclenched herself to the water spirit

when the river found its surge she fell

tumbling below surface

where hands that are both small and strong

loins of silver, mouths of tangerine

kiss her delirious

do you think as you draw your pastiche

of a woman with a phallus mounting a girl wearing cherries on her cheeks

do you contemplate wife-beaters and bound breasts

considering the ugliness of plastic stand-ins

and Kerry who came from Nova Scotia said

I’d be gay if I didn’t have to perform oral sex

that disgusts me

but imagine, I could have some rest

my boyfriend he is hard as driftwood

every morning at six

her legs closed to dynamite

squeezing residue of clichés between her thighs

they who are not us, live in an underwater world

you only know when you hold your breath and let go

At ten it was not apparent

though if you consider how much you enjoyed

lying on ladies fur coats and

smelling their perfume

what isn’t known glitters in the gloom

they said poor child, poor motherless urchin

and in their arms you felt

that longing to place a moonstone in a set of gold

translated later the shape and curve

men were all angles and hard

softness is the drift of sand

lapsing back into water

you tried being like everyone else

nobody really wants to wear a red mark

telling them apart

but the hot skin of men as they lay

clumsy and ill-fitting in your hollows

always reminded you of a plug

with two prongs when

three were needed