Dialogue with Beandrea Davis

I 'm not a poet, or am I?
Why did I subtitle my show "Works in Photography and Prose" when clearly what I've written is poetry?

A friend asked me this and declared rather emphatically: "it looks like poetry to me!"

My fear of poetry is now exposed.

I always cling to prose, to enough words to cover myself, my ideas. Poems seem so short. I always tell myself that I am not deep enough to write them.

But your description of the work as "photopoetic" feels really apt to me. Mostly because you've found a way to merge the two forms into one word, which is really how I see the work. It really isn't photography and prose as separate undertakings but the two forged together that makes an entirely new form.


Does saying prose or saying poetry confine us more? You fear that poetry has higher expectations; I call everything I write poetry just in case I miss a semicolon. I need poetic license in this email.
Your work did look like poetry to me. Even your email was poetry. But I think that what you've done requires its own word, because the eyes are not the same without the words and the words are nothing without the eyes. The eyes have to see you as you read the words. That's part of the experience of seeing it through their eyes.

So glad you decided to write,

My show came down tonight. I wrapped the pieces in bubble wrap, put them in my backseat, and drove them home. They are sitting in a cardboard box in my living room now.

I was not prepared for the incredible feeling of loss. I feel totally devoid of energy. All this added to the fact that I work full time at a crazy demanding job and thus, have to do my art on my "free" time. I feel totally pulled in different directions and it is wearing on me. Did you feel traumatized after graduating and then moving on (I'm assuming) to full time work?


Did I feel traumatized...

Although I do not necessarily *feel* busier now than I did, nor more responsible... I am certainly giving much less time to just being me and writing for myself and going on walks because I feel like it. The only thing truly missing right now is the ability to write more just for myself. I rarely have the time and energy when I'm not really supposed to be doing something else - But today I actually started two poems, "femme arsenal" and "be here with me," and I'm hoping to have some time this week to write.

What is your regular gig? How do you find it affecting your art?


I am the staff writer at the Philadelphia Public School Notebook-an indy quarterly that advocates for and gives voice to progressive reform in public education here in the city. The other day during yet another interview with a so-called School District big shot (boringblahblah), I decided that I need to write something about the eeriness of bureaucracy. Ever since I started working for the Notebook and paying attention to everything the District does, I've been kind of in awe of the surreal formalism of the whole environment.

My favorite part of the bi-monthly meetings of the "School Reform Commission" (read school board in a district that hasn't undergone a state takeover) is when the general counsel reads the "rules governing the public comment portion of the meeting." With her Australian accent making the fiasco all the more regal, she concludes them by saying "If you are not in accordance with these procedures the rules require that you will not be heard." She actually says those exact words. Who actually talks like that? And moreover, how can you stop someone from being heard? Close everyone's ears in the whole auditorium?

The pretense of it all is at once hilarious, ridiculous, and mostly depressing.

I feel you ONE HUNDRED PERCENT on the lack of time to write for Self. This will make me burst into tears if I think about it long enough. Writing/making art for me is not a luxury. It is my spiritual practice, literally what keeps me alive.

Do you always come up with the titles before you finish the pieces? Titles are usually last and of little importance for me, so I'm curious about your process.

You did well to read this whole thing!

Be well.


To me, the title of a piece is its first line. Now first lines get changed often as much as any other lines, so I wouldn't promise that in the end the poem will still be named "oranges," (get it?) but for now the names I give my poems are intended to be the first thing the audience hears or sees -- it's not the same to me as with naming a collection, where it's supposed to be something describing all that goes on ... it's just the first part.

Personally, when I write, I'm almost always focused on the last part -- maybe that's just the comedian in me wanting to have a good punch line... but I think it's also how I am in general; I am very focused and goal-oriented, and when I know I have something to say, I put it out there and then say to myself: "ok. how can i construct a poetic story to get someone else to where i am right now?" Most of the time, my poetry is a fictionalized account of how something occurred to me... but the thing that occurred to me is real. Does that make sense? Just sometimes... you'll have a thought... that you want so much to share with everyone... but you can't explain what actually happened - either it's private or too complicated and boring or you really just can't explain it even to yourself, perhaps you don't even know... so when I have those thoughts... at least ones I like... or when I hear other people say great lines that I want to use... I make up stories... via poetry... to get to that thing I want to share. To me, the title (the first line) and the punch line are the two most important moments in a poem.

Tell me about your artistic process?


Senior year of college was the best year I've had so far in life, largely because I discovered art. I discovered that when I create art the Divine reflects itself through me. This happened at a time when I was healing from a really painful experience I had with organized religion. I also began a regular yoga practice around this same time. All this is to say that when I talk about my art, I am talking about my spiritual practice which for me is a combination of regular writing, practicing yoga (on and off the mat), and other elements yet to be discovered/revealed.

My artistic process is about showing up and doing the work and trying not to be attached to the outcome. I used to think writing was just a gift people were born with, but after working through Julia Cameron's 12 week (I did it in 7 months) course called The Artist's Way I realized that's a huge myth. Writing, like everything else, is about practice. So that's the way I approach it. Some days I write something I think is great at the time and then look back at it weeks later and want to barf. And vice versa.

So writing for me is meditation in motion, prayer that makes sense to me, a way to connect with the Creatress and ultimately with my Self.

What I'd like to explore/develop now is a way to take the pages upon pages of raw writing I have and turn them into individual pieces, something someone else could read or that I could publish somewhere. I haven't yet figured out how to do that. It sounds like you have tweaked a process for doing this though. Would you agree?

When did you first realize that being a writer/poet/however you define yourself was a part of your identity? Have you always written poetry since you learned how to write?


It was never on purpose... it was never... I don't know... artistic feeling for me. I write poetry to express things I can't say in normal language... and as one of my closest friends (Jack Catalano, also a WH person) has said... the theme of my life is "drive for maximum communication." I often write poems to people to explain things that happened from my point of view... to thank them... to let them know they hurt me... to let them know what turns me on... whatever. Instead of letters and postcards, I write poems to people I miss. I think I realized I was a poet when people started commenting that I was one but I don't know what it means to *be* a poet. I think I am a poet simply because I hear things as poetry.

Monday morning I am going to be a guest visitor at Girls' High -- one of my other best friends (her name is Victoria Cahn) is an English teacher there and she is doing her unit on poetry and she wants the students to analyze my work and then have me come in and talk to them about it. There's something surreal about having kids really believe you're something you don't know for sure you are. I'm a little nervous about it. They're going to ask me questions as if there are answers.

You asked if I have a good process for... I don't know, I guess editing? I would say I have a good theory on editing: if I'm not *sure* that word is essential, it doesn't belong there. I cross 70% of what I write out, and I totally rearrange what's left. I will take criticism from anyone, and though I won't make any change just anyone suggests, I take everyone seriously. But finding the right people to be your critics and editors can be very difficult... Do you have people in your life you feel like you can really trust to be honest and harsh and loving and fair about your art?


Sounds like your friend is a great teacher since she came up with such a great idea for teaching poetry. Probably a lot of her students will see you and say ‘hey she's not that much older than me, maybe I can create a body of work too.’ I would love to hear how it goes.
What struck me from your last letter was when you said: "I think I am a poet simply because I hear things as poetry." I think what separates you (and those who see themselves as poets or are poets in hiding) from those who have no conscious relationship to verse is that you take the time to notice, to listen. That's what I mean when I say writing is meditation. It is taking time to notice what is there. We could all be profound if we just took the time to hear the world around us.

So I gather you write mostly on the computer? A friend says she likes writing poetry on the computer because it's so easy to move words around. Sometimes I agree with this. Like for example when I wrote all the text for Through Her Eyes, doing it on the computer made things so much easier. But as a writer I am really committed to plain old pen and paper. It's a lot harder for me to ignore the Critic when I'm typing (I confess that I've edited these emails all along-I can't stop myself) in front of the screen. There is something about the fluid motion of putting pen to paper that makes it easier to hear (and say) what needs to be given a voice.