It is my pleasure to introduce my friend and colleague in this month's spotlight , Shawnie Hamer.
Shawnie Hamer (she/her) was born in the heat & dust of Bakersfield, CA. Her first book, the stove is off at home (Spuyten Duyvil, 2018) is an experimental art & poetry book curated through a community ritual focused on the identification & exorcism of trauma. Hamer is the founder of collective.aporia, an international arts collective offering monthly workshops & *apo-press. Her latest manuscript, The Rage That Raised Us (formerly The Rage That Raised Them) was a finalist in the 2021 Essay Press Book Content, judged by Ronaldo Wilson. She proudly received her MFA from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University where she was able to befriend the most inspiring group of artists she's ever met. She lives in France.
What inspired you to manifest Collective Aporia?
Collective.aporia was manifested from a deep longing for community. In 2018, I was traveling by myself around Europe. I purchased a one-way ticket and was planning to mosey my way around from country to country, working freelance gigs and odd jobs for room and board until the money ran out.
The year before, I had graduated from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. It was there that I had been lucky to find and establish an incredible writing community (a family of writers, really) that had opened my eyes to the inspiration and influence of a collective. In fact, my entire writing process had shifted because of it. What had previously been a somewhat lonely act was now infused and supported by the love and insight of my friends/teachers.
Needless to say, I was missing this dearly on the road. I wished they were with me. And what’s more, I was meeting other creatives on my trip that I wished I could introduce to my community back home.
On New Year’s Eve 2018, I stood outside the home of an artist I was staying with in Kendal, United Kingdom, drinking cheap champagne, and a question came to me: how can I create a space for community and creativity that can be accessed by everyone at every time?
The next morning, I began writing down every idea I could think about it. What it would look like, how it would exist in the world. When I went back to visit Colorado that following spring, I shared the idea with Sarah Richards Graba, Swanee Astrid, and Vera Linder over cocktails in Swanee’s apartment. It was from there that we began solidifying the dream together.
What Draws you to poetry, writing, and the arts?
I view this question through the lens of two roles: writer and collective member. They are not separate by any means, but an oscillation of energy that has greatly impacted my life.
As a writer, really for as long as I could remember, I have been drawn to writing and reading because of its ability to recreate the world. In the pages of a text, we can reimagine both the mundane and the fantastic.
As a little girl, I would create forts protected by teddy bears and books, where I would go to explore both the light and dark aspects of life in the pages of my journal. It was at once a safe place (maybe the safest) while also incredibly vulnerable—a practice in taking a leap into the unchartered rooms of imagination.
When I finally grew enough to leave my fort, and then leave my hometown, I began to fully realize that the intentions that creatives can have for this kind of exploration, as well as the influence it can hold on society/a person’s life, was powerful. Maybe the most powerful and consistent force throughout history. I examined how creatives could bend and break the rules and edges that I was banging my head against. How they could even expand borders and boundaries of the self.
Now, as a JKS grad, I am obviously very influenced by Anne Waldman and the work she has done over her incredible life. Not only has she amassed an outstanding library of work, but at every step along the way, she has created radical and safe spaces for her writing communities. She has truly been in service to poetry for over 60 years.
It is this service that draws me to my work in the collective and the writing that ensues. I want to create texts and spaces that create homes. Places for joy, growth, and grief. Spaces for connection and empathy.
I want to give back to poetry and the love it’s given me. It’s this love, this radical love, that will always keep me coming back.
Do you have any tips for others that want to do what you do?
The first (and most important) is to find your people! Collective.aporia would not have been and would not be without the steadfast volunteers and friends that dedicate their time and care to it. Find the people who believe in your vision, that are not afraid to challenge and expand it, and that want to see it manifest with the same level of excitement as you do.
The second is to try to not do everything at once. It’s a sure-fire way to burnout, but it’s also really enticing. Find the focus of your dream and work diligently on that. Once you’re established, then you can begin expanding your operations.
Lastly, don’t get so caught up in your service that you let your own creative practices go to the wayside. It is so easy to do; I’ve done it and I’ve seen so many others do it, too. You must fill your own cup before you can fill anyone else’s. Not only is a form of self-care, but it’s also important to remember that being a collective member requires creativity. If that well is dry, your participation, and therefore the organization itself, will suffer.
I. Primary Desire
In the beginning it was just this: all the known things we can no longer see. That you no longer know. The moment the ice breaks. The water freezes. The smell of spices on the stove.
I come to you now, and I’ve all but forgotten. The first inclining towards divine, loving you.
As I prepared to leave, the ghosts descended. To help me pack my belongings, nothing actually mine. The dusty altar candles, the string of orange lights, the books stacked one by one. The home I created at once sacred infestation:
A queue of spirits knocking on the door.
An army of mice under the sink.
The neighbor with the shotgun under my feet.
It was here I told you of my dreams. The way the sheets moved under and around our bodies. The ancestor with the tendency to push her hands down on my chest, to see, she said. You have to stay here to see.
So, I left.
Sold my 28 years piece by piece in the front yard. To strangers with noisy minivans and sweaty pits. Much to the neighbors’ chagrin. What is it about travelers that we find so intriguing, untrustworthy? Abandoning the address, the daily routine, must mean something is amiss.
It’s true, something’s not right. The wall you helped me build is crumbling, and I can do nothing to fortify the structure.
I’ve also grown fond of hallucinating, in red wine and cigarette haze. Watching the faeries. Playing Sound & Color on repeat as I see the future appear in front of me, through the pines. The Eiffel Tower, your coming. The hot lightness of my body in the claw foot tub or the Mediterranean Sea.
You don’t believe me, but I didn’t flee. I didn’t realize it at the time. No, back then when we sat on benches and snowy bar patios, I told you I was desperate to escape. The 12-hour work days, pouring drinks and teaching APA to community college warriors. The way your eyes changed when you mentioned her name. The feeling—no, the knowing—that this city, every city, is just out of reach.
All the things you knew deeply when you first arrived aren’t known here, the past life reader explains when I ask about love.
Here’s what I know for sure:
I learned the most about God when I defied the people who guarded the gates. Breached the baptismal pool, wet and heavy. Imagined the faces—the ones not readily available in such a dusty town. The ones in foreign lands, who called to God differently. Or not at all. And when I called upon the broken stewards outside of the city limits, I opened to the possibility. The holiness of the underbelly. God is not stationary, like the pronunciation of a word. But rather is people, which is to say, never still. A movement. To surrender to the unknown often means saying goodbye.
Here’s what I know for sure: To find God travel was to find the ability to love you.
Sturgeon Moon with Simone Liggins
According to farmer's almanacs. The term Sturgeon Moon was popularized by the Native Americans of the Great Lakes region. They depended greatly upon a large harvest of Sturgeon this time of year for survival. Other connections could be the western pagan holiday season of Lughnasadh or Lammas (bread day). Sometimes these festivals would last for the entire month as people celebrated and feasted while bringing in the first harvest. It's a good time to savor the blessings of your own skills and those near you.
Full Aquarius Moon 2022—We’re All Quirky Down Here…
There is a calm sweetness to an Aquarius Moon native, an openness that
compels almost any onlooker to be present in the self-simulated comfort. Here is the
notion of how to not feel pressured about how to be, a healthy sense of detachment to
keep logic flowing, even as the concept of emotions flit and sway the mind. The passing
transit can be processed similarly. Bearing the emotions is a different duty from soaking
them all in, despite the need to decipher the similar translations with either fated task.
Another side of perception’s coin, if one would. It can be expansive in all notions for the
people, and it can be for the better or worse (depending on all the transits in the
factors), and even that will be packaged in some rationalized justification—these can be
the villains who tend to make sense even through their tyranny. And let’s not forget,
darlings, this is a NEW YEAR of HEEEAAATTTT, and multiple nations know by now.
Rationality has the capability of evaporating. There may be some compelling to rebel for
the occasion. Rebel for what? Yourself? For someone else? For the trees? Perhaps it’s
possible a Summer of Cosmic Soul is flashing its way back to the now that we know.
Here are a few key transits of this moon phase. To start, we have Sun opposite
Moon. It is the very placement that makes a Full Moon happen, so it feels like public
right to know that this transit might as well be described as one of the basics movers of
anxiety. Caught between the vacillating extremes of the head and heart, it’s
magnification of thought and feeling with the underlying concept of separation that
inspire some version of a conniption. It’s energies and people at odds with one another
because the ruler of identity and the ruler of the heart are in literal opposite signs.
Aquarius and Leo are both Fixed. They have an unyielding quality, standing firm in their
comforts and points. Aquarius is the breezy calculations of a hard drive. Leo is the bold,
passionate vibe of a warrior. Both think they are correct, though the former functions on
thought and the latter functions on feeling. And, once again, it’s too hot, too hot, too hot,
lady. Better run for cover, better run for shade. Gaskets can blow at the Ego Death
Show. Both have strength, but Aquarius will be absolutely icy with the viciousness while
Leo will attempt full arson. How does one hold onto their sanity aka emotions while the
skin is metaphorically on fire? One might be enticed to ask the planet.
Moon conjunct Saturn can speak to nurturing boundaries and structures that can
lead to some sense of progressive movement, maybe for the collective more so than
just for one, though it could take a moment to realize it. What helps your heart feel
grounded while in the same breath sets you free? What helps you feel creative in a way
that feels like growth, like the surge of Cosmic Vibe that strums through you like the
exact note, the exact word, the exact spark of passion that’s struck into the sky. How do
you rebel for the greater good, knowing it might take lives in the most austere ways?
The seriousness is real, and weigh heavy on the heart, it will. Moreover, it can inspire
one to attempt to work through trauma and turmoil on their own instead of opening up
about it to those with whom the connection needs to be made. The groove is still in the
heart, and can’t you feel that heat? Saturn’s gonna make you sweat for that
commitment, make it worth your heartbeat unless you say it’s not. What is your vow to
protect and what is it tied to? Is it to your home, the hearth and sanctuary, your fortress
of peacetitude? On what, or should I saw whom, does your dwelling lie? On Mother
Earth, who, is once again at the moment, physically and metaphorically burning acres of
her dermis by the untamed second. Even if not ignited by human ignorance, it certainly
isn’t waiting on human genius to rectify it. It may be miles away from many of us at the
moment, but what about the times it hasn’t been, those brief blinks where you could just
make out that that wasn’t a normal cloud wafting over the mountains, that it didn’t move
like the others and looked sootier. What will strike real rational pride in defending the
stability you’ve come to create, and what will actually make you consider usurping all
that you have ever known in the name of greater structure? Papa Saturn always wants
an answer. Mama Moon will let you linger on it. You may need the muscle memory for
the lesson later.
Moon square Uranus might as well scream with a rhetorical tone, “Oh, Heather,
do we need some damage control.” The heart may want to do unpredictable things, but
is it worth it? What is worth to you? To the New World Order? Yes, we all have some
semblance of both lashing and reaching out to the aforementioned order, but it holds
the same power as the adage “One man’s trash is another’s treasure.” So what is the
best answer for the All if one individual can “throw” it out just for another to “pick” it up?
Poke and prod with trial & error, but how far are you willing to go for results? What
unpredicted muscle memory is being triggered for you to remember what to do? It’s
interesting that there seems to be so many more questions than answers, but that’s the
power of Uranus—it constantly beckons curiosity as to why and what all of this is.
Moon conjunct Ascendant is slightly odd because it’s dealing with a focal point
that isn’t actually tangibly there, and since the ASC is the essentially everyone’s front
door to their psyche, the results can vary. However, considering that even calculated
intangible points can have a collective impact. It’s a time where how you present
yourself and how you feel in the moment, which at other times could show a clashing,
may actually reveal themselves to align as one coherent feeling, no matter how
idiosyncratic the feelings and actions may be.
Moon square Mars could open with “I don’t wanna fight, but I’ll do it for love.” A
mofo will roll up if they have to, otherwise you will feel the simmering explosion awaiting
to Pompeii your future days until you find a way to assuage and diffuse greased flames
upon churning waters. What is the desire, the drive and goal seemingly being thwarted?
What keeps your heart from victory? An echo is occurring, no coincidence when transits
wave through with similar messages. How does your personal victory need to be
nurtured? Is it conquering the fear or conquering something else? Mars is currently in
Taurus, a sign that definitely gives you horns when felt fucked with enough. So now
instead of Fixed Air and Fire clashing, it’s Fixed Air and Earth. Didn’t Twin Stevie warn
you about the Landslide? Do earthquakes not thrill you enough? More mindfulness to
not completely allow yourself to meltdown and self-destruct, no matter how it feels best
for the greater good, is where true self-care resides.
Saturn continues to show us that we will either do our work and he will take us
with pride, or we will do, he will take us, and the lack of glory will resonate. Also, as we
fluctuate through the processing shadows of the collective, we will see flashes of the
past and future in one present blink. It has already shaken us—how will it move us
forward? How do we see the bigger picture with enough compassionate detachment
while tapping into some of the deepest yet simplest moments of human connection?
The moon will definitely be cooler as we sweat out a new understanding, but the
passion that leads to vibrantly creative yet stabilized view can ignite an entirely new
scintillating sense of chilled confidence and calm. With any hope, the energies can one
day be balanced between soothing the darkness and preserving the light in the most
compassionate collective portrait possible.
Simone Liggins earned her MFA in Writing at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics of Naropa University. The foundation for her love of writing and literature was paved at an early age and blossomed during her teenage years through the kind of tortured freedom that only the ostracism & funk-weirdness of being an African-American Gemini mystic can grant a person. Her various influences include but are not limited to: Sylvia Plath, Kurt Vonnegut, Dorothy Parker, Audre Lorde, Lenore Kandel, Laurell K. Hamilton, Octavia Butler, The Beatles, Lady Gaga, Fiona Apple, and Jimi Hendrix. Her work has been featured in Raven Chronicles, Buddy--A Lit Zine, BEATS Poetry Periodical, Boulder Weekly, Outsider Poetry, SurVision Magazine, Reject Press, Queen Mob's Teahouse, Visitant Magazine, S/tick Magazine, Petrichor Magazine, and work in the forthcoming publication Poemhood by HarperCollins.
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