MQR’s Online Series, “Celebrating Writers in Our Community,” is inspired by our upcoming special-themed issue, “Why We Write.” The series of interviews is a celebration of the diversity of Southeast Michigan writers, their talents, their motivations for writing, and their significance to our community.
Nadine “MARS” is a writer and cultural organizer born and raised in Detroit. Their work has been published in the Lambda Literary Art anthology “Emerge”, Foglifter Journal, Gertrude Press, the Shade Journal, and elsewhere. MARS is a 2019 Lambda Literary Art Emerging Writers Fellow in Poetry.
Lillian Pearce (LP): How do you involve your own motivations for writing in the work you have done and are currently doing with community organizations?
Nadine MARS (NM): Re-claiming or the act of claiming our own story is at the heart of my motivation for writing, and in many ways, this is woven into the work I’ve done with Detroit City Wide Poets/InsideOut and my work current with organizing the Allied Media Conference.
Working with students in the Detroit City Wide Poets program gave me the opportunity to facilitate workshops that emphasized how writing and sharing our own stories allow us to be in our full power, giving us the agency to combat the ways our bodies and our histories are often erased.
As Director of the Allied Media Conference, I help facilitate the attendance of artists, organizers, and activists to engage in 4-days of dynamic content exploring participatory media as a strategy for social justice organizing. Understanding the importance of reclaiming our narratives in literature, technology, and art makes room for building the liberated worlds we need.
LP: How do you find equilibrium between your reasons for writing and the work you do to connect and support other artists and organizations?
NM: I see my motivations for writing and the work that I do to connect other artists and organizers as deeply interconnected work. As a Black Queer and Trans writer and organizer, I see myself as part of an ecosystem of people working creatively to craft new worlds through art and language. My own motivations offer a connection point to those I work with and allows us to dream of new ways to organize. This becomes an infinite feedback loop, where the critical connections I build with other artists and organizers allow me to re-approach my work in more visionary ways.
The people I’ve met through the Allied Media Conference inspire me to reach for new lenses in approaching my work, while the youth at InsideOut has taught me to be more honest and unflinching with the way I can tell my own story.
LP: Can you speak on your experience as a Poetry Incubator Fellow?
NM: Being a Poetry Incubator Fellow connected me to the most beautiful people weaving poetry and organizing together and emphasized the importance of honoring community in my writing. Being part of this experience allowed me to deepen my commitment to and honor the legacy of community being a central part of the artistic practice of writing.
What was most powerful about this experience was witnessing the direct impact artists make on their communities through art by curating opportunities for deeper dialogue and strategizing around issues we face to make room for joy and celebration by amplifying other artists in the community.
As a writer, I’m interested in the ongoing practice of ensuring the work I create is accountable to the communities I come from; the Poetry Incubator helped me widen my perspective on what this accountability may look like.
LP: In his 1947 essay “Why I Write,” George Orwell breaks down his motivations for writing into four distinct categories: sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose. How would you define your motivations for writing?
NM: While I believe Orwell’s categories are compelling and offer us a broad stroke example of the writers’ motivations, I believe that they may also be too narrow or leaves us with little room to separate ourselves from the very egoism alluded to here. By that, I mean that so many of us are writing as a form of witness or truth-telling, holding the legacies of freeing ourselves from the brutal imaginations of white supremacy. So I think we find ourselves in need of an additional category, one that considers the act of witnessing and truth-telling that is different from Orwell’s defined motivation of Historical Impulse. The motivation of witness is working to illuminate or elevate histories or forms of existence that aren’t seen or acknowledged in a way that’s much more urgent than collecting the facts for the use of posterity.
LP: What would you say to young people wanting to write about or during a politically charged time?
NM: I would tell young people wanting to write during this time to be gentle with themselves, that writing in this moment requires good care and attention to ourselves. I would invite them to write without concern for whether it’s “good” or “bad”… Write in ways that serve you first.