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WITS Writer Spotlight: Daemond Arrindell MAR 13, 2012
Daemond Arrindell is a poet and educator who believes in the power of the word to transform lives. He has coached the Seattle National Poetry Slam team for seven years and facilitates residencies at Monroe Correctional Complex and Echo Glen Children's Center. Daemond teaches poetry for Writers in the Schools at Washington Middle School and Garfield High School. He has worked as a WITS Writer-in-Residence for five years.
1) What was your path to poetry?
It was the movie Back to School with Rodney Dangerfield that opened my eyes to poetry and even got me thinking about possibilities of what poems would SOUND like if performed. I was always a voracious reader and loved books, but for poetry, music was the first form that drew me in. Really, poetic song lyrics (The Eagles, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan) jumpstarted it. Hip Hop took it much further. Gil Scott Heron officially blew my mind.
2) Were you a reader and writer as a kid? Did you ever see yourself as a "page" poet vs. a "stage" poet? Can you say something about the difference in this in your life, and perhaps also with teaching it to kids?
I was definitely a book hound as a kid. I LOVED to read and the library was one of my favorite places in the world, growing up. BUT, I was a science kid--art was NOT my thing in any capacity. My first official poem was written in the second half of my senior year of high school. And that was out of laziness: the shortest option for a writing assignment over the winter break.
I still have a difficult enough time owning the title "poet" because it puts me into the same grouping as so many of my heroes. I don't personally classify myself at this point, even though I definitely identify more with "stage poet," but that is the genre that speaks to me the most. I also haven't been published much, but one goal this year is to submit my work to different places for publication every month, so perhaps I can consider myself more versatile by the end of the year.
I tend to focus on stage poetry or spoken word/performance poetry because, personally, I feel that a piece of writing isn't complete until it is shared aloud. There is something magical about what the voice can do to bring a piece of writing alive. I think back to all the stories I was told as a child, the books I was read at the library, and how that never got old. Reading a book, story, or poem by yourself is a wonderful act that cannot and should not be discouraged, but the act of sharing a piece of writing through the voice, bringing it alive through the energy that the speaker gives to it and gives to the audience, elicits a whole new world of emotion. And the potential that act has for transformation is why I involve spoken word poetry into my lessons whenever teaching young people.
3) What's a favorite WITS moment from your five years here?
There are way too many to have an all-time favorite, but I will say that the end-of-year readings at Meany Middle School were pretty incredible. This was the culmination of my first residency, and it was also bittersweet, as Meany was set for closure. The readings took place in the library and each of the classes that read also acted as an audience for the other classes at times throughout the day. There is very little that is more endearing than a 6th grade boy quaking in his boots, except for watching that same young man’s face try desperately to contain a smile bigger than his head after reading a part of himself to an audience of his peers, and those peers not just accepting him, but applauding him, his work, and his bravery.
I also thoroughly enjoy the annual WITS Writer Works-in-Progress readings: getting to hear the brilliance that my fellow writers-in-residence are working on is such a thrill, and since we are all busy and not always very good at self-promotion, it is one of the few times we get to hear each others' work. Always powerful. Always inspiring.
4) How does WITS teaching inspire your own writing?
If I'm gonna talk the talk, I have to walk the walk. The one piece of feedback I've gotten most consistently over the years is "share your work more often." My focus is always the students--making more time for their words, so I tend to forget the value of taking that risk myself and demonstrating my own craft. So, while I can't always participate in the in-class writing, I have been trying to do the exercises I assign my students more consistently and then taking opportunities to read that writing with them whether I am proud of it or not, simply to engage in the act of sharing works in progress.
5) Anything else you'd like to share about your work as a poet?
I'm constantly striving to write work that challenges me, or scares me, or makes me uncomfortable. And if my writing hasn't done one of those things, then I haven't written enough.
“Writers in the Schools not only gave me the freedom to express myself, but also helped me express myself in better, stronger, and more creative ways.”
-- Roosevelt HIgh School 10th Grader