Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Writer Wednesday - Devi K. Lockwood

Devi K. Lockwood first came to my consciousness when my coworker, Meredith, who went to college with her, suggested I check out her website, since I'm interested in telling stories through poetry. Turns out Devi is freaking awesome. On top of being a poet, she's an avid bicyclist, rower, and Arabic-speaker. She also just graduated college and I think we all know how rough that can be. I'm pretty sure she's got a handle on it, but send some good vibes her way as you read this interview and then hop on over to her site to learn more about her incredible thesis.

And, in the time since we first did this interview, Devi sent me an update with some great news! She writes, "I am a recipient of a Gardner and Shaw Postgraduate Traveling Fellowship from Harvard, which means that my "all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world" is going to become a reality... thank you Harvard funding gods! I will leave in the fall for New Zealand, bike the length of both islands, spend a few months in Fiji and Tuvalu, and then bike in the late spring and summer in the U.K., all the while collecting stories from people I meet along the way about water-based climate change. I will be blogging during the trip (and learning lots about the art of blogging along the way, I am sure), and also creating a website that acts as a sonic map where people can click on a place and listen to a recording that was made there that has something to do with water."

It goes without saying that I will definitely be following that blog and living vicariously. Congratulations, Devi! 

Devi K. Lockwood searching for stories in Vicksburg, MS.

Who are you? I am a poet, a folklorist, a storyteller, a rower, a daughter, and a lover of bike trips. This May I will graduate from Harvard with a degree in Folklore & Mythology and a language citation in Arabic and officially enter the postgraduate abyss––though I hear there is much to look forward to on the other side. Last summer I biked 800 miles along the Mississippi River Trail between Memphis, TN and Venice, LA and collected stories from the people I met along the way. For my senior thesis, there are no straight lines: a collection of mississippi river stories told as poems, I wrote 100 pages of poems inspired by the stories people told me on the bike trip. I am a firm believer in the art of storytelling and the art of listening, and there is nothing I love more than using the energy of my own body to get from point A to point B. I also love baking bread.

Where can you be found online? Do you have a blog or other online receptacle for your work? If so, how would you describe it to a stranger you've just met while on vacation? If your work doesn't live online, tell the hot-tub-stranger about your writing in such a way that makes them urge you to get an online receptacle for it. I'm relatively new to blogging, though I created a website to go along with my thesis ( are a few poems from there are no straight lines there. I also have poems published online at Split This Rock and Verse Wisconsin.

What inspired you to start writing? When did it happen? I think it all started in the third grade. My teacher had bins of books in her room that we were meant to peruse during quiet reading time. I have this vivid memory of picking out a book of poems and finding a poem about Zinnias, likely this one by Valerie Worth. I had never heard the word "zinnia" and I didn't know what a zinnia was, but the poem made zinnias real for me. And what a beautiful word! Zinnias! I felt the pull and power of poetry in my life for the first time and sort of never looked back.

I started writing poetry in the summer after fourth grade as a camper at Centauri Summer Arts Camp in Ontario, Canada. I came to the camp as a dancer, but found that I liked the writing crowd better. The writers would go to breakfast, spend the entire morning writing under the “Poet Tree,” break for muffins, and then get back to the business of writing and reading and being ridiculous. I fell in love with words. I love them still. For this love I am especially indebted to Laura Farina and Beth Follett.

This process sort of accelerated throughout my high school career. As a student at Phillips Exeter I had the chance to meet Patricia Smith, Major Jackson, W.S. Merwin, and Naomi Shihab Nye as part of the Lamont Poetry Series. When I ended up at Harvard, I felt like the luckiest woman alive. Christina Davis at the Woodberry Poetry Room curates events that bring amazing poets to campus and keep me hungry and inspired to write and to listen. I have been fortunate to take poetry workshops at Harvard with Joanna Klink, Jorie Graham, and Josh Bell, each of whom facilitated a workshop environment in which it was possible to grow, explore, and learn from my classmates. I am especially grateful to Josh Bell for advising my senior thesis.

Why do you write? I don't think I could live without it.

Who inspires you? Mary Oliver, Adrienne Rich, Marge Piercy, Joy Harjo, Naomi Shihab Nye, Lenelle Moïse, Jorie Graham, Patricia Smith, Maggie Nelson, C.D. Wright, Alice Oswald, E. Patrick Johnson, Anna Deavere Smith , Chris Kay Fraser's Toronto Kiss Map, and so many more. I love being a part of artistic communities of all kinds––I live in a co-op with 32 other undergrads who push me to be the best human being I can be.

If you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? I would go on a year-long bike trip to collect stories from people about water-based effects climate change. I would start in New Zealand, bike the length of both islands, and then visit Tuvalu, a country dramatically affected by sea level rise. Then I would bike in and around the U.K. to listen for stories about flooding. [Editor's note: Did you read above? Devi is actually going to be living this dream for the next year!]

What is your favorite place on earth? In a rowing shell suspended between the Charles River and the Boston skyline at dusk, just as the moon is rising behind the city. I've experienced this twice and it's sublime. 

Anything else you'd like us to know?
This semester I'm taking a class called Sonic Ethnography in which we learn to make and edit high quality audio recordings. Last summer on my bike trip I made over 50 hours of audio recordings but didn't have a clue how to make them sound worth listening to. At the moment I'm working on a project called the Boston Puppet Map which will feature audio recordings made at different loci of puppetry in the Boston area. I hope to incorporate this kind of work into future projects: a mixture of poetry and raw audio files.

Long live the art of storytelling! If you'd like to contact me, please email devi-dot-lockwood-at-gmail-dot-com.

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