Dominique Christina is an award-winning writer, performer, educator, and activist. She holds five national poetry slam titles in the three years she competed, including the 2014 & 2012 Women of the World Slam Champion and 2011 National Poetry Slam Champion. She is presently the only person to have won two Women of the World Poetry Championships. Dominique Christina is also the 2013 National Underground Poetry Individual Competition Champion (NUPIC), and 2013 Southern Fried Poetry Slam Champion. Dominique Christina is presently an actor/writer for the HBO series High Maintenance Season 2 and does branding for Under Armour’s #UnlikeAny campaign. Dominique Christina has performed and conducted workshops for hundreds of colleges/universities, schools, community art spaces, nonprofit organizations, and conferences across the country. She has opened for Cornel West, appeared in Season 3 of Verses and Flow on TV One, performed for the Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till families at the Shiloh Baptist Church, and was a keynote speaker at the Emerging Women Conference, TedxMSU Denver, the LOHAS Conference, and was invited to China to perform her poetry in Chengdu. Dominique Christina’s fourth manuscript “Anarcha Speaks” won the National Poetry Series 2017 Competition and will be published Fall 2018 by Beacon Press. Please enjoy my interview with the remarkable Dominique Christina.
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I crawl out of graves.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
I learned to read the same year I was molested the first time by my stepfather (4 years old). I associate literacy with wounds opening and the aptitude to know what to call the bruises when they appear…and when they heal.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be and why?
Beloved by Toni Morrison. Because everyone should. It’s a haunting. It’s a ritual. It’s alchemy. It’s ancestral. It’s so holy I have to hold onto things so I don’t float away while reading it.
Can you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
It was a suicide note.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
A wife. (Just kidding I think. I haven’t had any bad jobs.)
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring poet?
Read everything. Not just the stuff you’re sure you’ll like. And…do the soul work before you attempt to write down what happened. The poem should not precede your readiness to name; to tell the truth. If it does, it’s not what your soul wants to say. The ego perhaps but not the soul.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
What books do you feel are important reading for people on your career path and why?
God Dies by the Nile by Nawal El Saadawi. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Beloved by Toni Morrison. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. Sylvia Plath anything. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurtson. The Color Purple by Alice Walker. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. TS Elliot. EE Cummings. Edgar Allan Poe. Shakespeare especially Hamlet and Macbeth. I could go on. Why? Because they’re brilliant. Because the writer and the writing risks something. Because there are marrow and medicine in these works. Because they show you how big language is. How urgent it is.
Is there a book that you’ve read more than once? What is it and why did you revisit it?
Beloved by Toni Morrison. It calls me into myself. It gives me back my name. And my memories.
If someone who’s never got into poetry asks you for a tip on a good poetry book to start with, what would you recommend?
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Everything I’ve listed above.
Who would you say are the three poets that continue to inspire you?
Rachel McKibbens. Mahogany Browne. Jeanann Verlee.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
I like creative nonfiction a great deal.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
One in which we forfeit language probably for barbarism and pedestrian ways of using the lexicon. It would be a wasteland.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
Literally, everyone I have already named. I remain forever in awe of them all. I’m buying whatever they put out.
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
Hope not. But what do I know? I’m still kind of analogue about certain things.
What book do you feel humanity needs most right now?
I can’t prescribe what humanity needs. I would hope we read things that help us remain human. Help us know ourselves and love more deeply and respond to our gifts. But what that looks like for me isn’t necessarily the right equation for someone else.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
I’ve mentioned Beloved by Toni Morrison too many times now so I’ll think of something else though that is my official answer. I guess I would say I was impacted deeply by The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor largely because it centered a community of women who were vast and complicated and broken in all the ways I understand and they were church for one another and they held each other accountable and curated a holy space for each other which is one version of heaven that exists in my head.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
I, Tituba by Maryse Condé was essential to me. Stupid Hope by Jason Shinder. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers another. Too many to name, seriously.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
Things that stretch language and challenge my thinking. Not sure what subject matter will offer that so I’m poised for any and all things.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
Already wrote it. “Even the Moon Has Bones.” It’s a doozy.