Our Senior Editor, Alexa Chrisbacher, sat down with Shawnie Hamer to explore “the experiment,” lineage, and body and sexuality in writing.
Alexa Chrisbacher: What kind of work do you usually make? Who are your major influences? Do you consider your work experimental?
Shawnie Hamer: My work tends to lean into trauma and the female body. More specifically, because of my background/upbringing, how dominant constructions have indoctrinated my views of the self, the body, and sexuality. The things we carry (un)knowingly. Writing about these issues is an act of activism for me, as this trauma is not always exposed. Though my writing often comes from the personal, my hope is that there is a multiplicity within the lines that many female or female identifying voices can relate to.
One of my major influences is Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body. I am fascinated how bodies interact with each other in intimate relationships. I believe there is a stigma in modern poetry circles against writing about love, and yet it is the one thing we have in common. I keep it by my bed as a constant reminder of what I hope to accomplish in my work.
Other poets that are really influencing me right now are Bhanu Kapil, Samiya Bashir, and H.D.
Also, my cohort is the biggest influence on my writing. They are brilliant and beautiful and constantly pushing me to find a strength in my writing I didn’t know was possible.
AC: Are you working on any projects right now? What are the motivating interests/influences behind it? What are your visions for the end result?
SH: I am working on two big projects right now. The first was started in Bhanu’s Architecture class. It is an experimentation of reframing the “I” and “You” of a romantic relationship through the lens of an architectural structure, more specifically a geodesic dome.
The second project is my critical thesis, which is on a topic very near and dear to me. I am exploring/inventing a term I have titled “Violation Poetics.” This term dissects masculine language, its violation of the female body, and how by creating art the female body, in turn, violates the dominant conventions. I am focusing this theory specifically to populations in conservative/rural areas of the United States. Stay tuned.
AC: How has the JKS lineage interacted with your writing and other artistic endeavors? Do you consider yourself part of this lineage, do you think your work is in conversation with it?
SH: Part of the lineage of JKS is that of pushing boundaries and leaning into the fray to enact change. It is about community. It is about holding yourself and institutions accountable. In this way, I do consider myself and my work a part of this lineage.
AC: Every generation of writers is classified into a group (ie Outrider, Beat, New School, etc). What do you think the state of writing is for this current generation of makers? How would you and your peeps classify yourselves in the larger scope of poetics and culture?
SH: I think this is a tough topic to navigate for a lot of the current generation. There is a desire to be like the writers that many of us have been so influenced by, but there is also an understanding of the issues these groups had. I think it boils down to the fear every artist has had since the beginning of time… we want to be relevant. However, that being said, it’s kind of all bullshit if you really think about it. It’s an illusion. I think my peeps and I would go for the “or not” option. Why should we limit ourselves and our work to a label? We want to write. We are passionate about change. We don’t need a name for that.
SH: To participate in poetics is to be in conversation with “the experiment,” as defined by each individual and group. To you, what experiment are you interacting with through your work, practices and creative actions?
AC: “The experiment” is such a broad (and sometimes overused) term in modern poetics. I have thought a lot about this and all I can say is, to me, the experiment is subjective. It’s personal. A writer can smear shit and piss over their work and be in conversation with the experiment. A writer can work with traditional sonnets and be in conversation with the experiment. Personally, I find my experiment to be following intuition. Trusting myself and my writing when it needs to go too far, or stop completely. I think the experiment is truly pushing yourself to continue to learn and expand your work. If you think you are an expert and have no need for this anymore, you are involved with the experiment.