Performance poet Lisa Luxx is Hate’s poet of the month! We caught up with the powerful Lisa Luxx to discuss her take on poetry. Watch an exclusive recording of her performing How To Love A Poet recorded live in Beirut now!
As well as being a performer and a poet, you’ve also been a journalist and you founded the amazing Prowl magazine. Can you tell us a bit about your own journey to get to where you are today?
Through a lot of hard work I got my dream job at a fashion magazine very early on, that was a damn lucky move because I could just as quickly see my dream had been void of purpose, what’s happened since has been me aligning myself with purpose. I started Prowl because after those couple of years working in the mainstream media industry I felt compelled to fill the gap in the market for honesty. Prowl was a post-net magazine for DIY artists. But it took a lot of money and admin to make a magazine. Like it took a lot of compromising to be a journalist. I realised if I just stand up and say what I need to say on stage the overheads are much cheaper and I don’t have to pull myself back to fit in with someone else’s framework. So here I am.
You’ve been working and spending time in Lebanon, what have you learnt from your experiences there?
On a personal level I’ve been learning about my capacity to love as this all began as a journey to know myself and my family better. On a practical level I’ve been learning about the art of community, how it really looks and what it takes to sustain it. On a technical level I’ve learnt to become a much more sensory poet, as I’ve been observing my surroundings evermore closely since they’re foreign enough to charm me but familiar enough for me to know the language with which to write of them.
Social media has enabled me, and countless others, to follow your journey and connect with your words. Do you ever feel self conscious about publishing such personal work? And if so, how do you overcome this?
I don’t think I consider enough how open I am, actually. Sometimes I forget people aren’t used to it and that “over-sharing” makes them uncomfortable; really their discomfort is a happy accident that they should Paypal me for. Sometimes I forget that our minds aren’t museums that we open up for all to come in and have a look; have a look at where we came from, at the stolen artefacts we store there, and the roots of our strangeness. But if I ever falter about how much I’ve shared I remember that just because I exposed who I am today it doesn’t mean people know who I’ll be tomorrow. And anyway, social discourse won’t shift if we’re too attached to our stiff upper lips.
You have a really unique and emotive way of speaking and engaging with people during performances, it feels like you honestly mean what you are saying, like pure feeling is pouring out of you. How do you emotionally prepare for public speaking?
I often spend some time writing down why I’m standing up, what brought me to here. And if I’ve got a forefront feeling that is dominating my approach to my day then I make it a part of the show, I never feel good if I step off stage knowing I’ve been inauthentic or that I’ve performed over the top of the poetry, instead of letting the poetry perform.
What advice would you give to people wanting to become performance poets?
Prepare to become so vulnerable that your softness is your superpower. Prepare to scare people off because you emote so intensely at their presence. Prepare for performance poetry to lift your veil until you’re bare naked, running down highways as motor drivers shout for mercy. Prepare to be flung wide open and for people to take a seat within you without you ever knowing their name. Prepare to hurt, prepare to lose track of reason, prepare to feel like a fraud, like a god, like a worthless piece of shit, like you can change the world but you can’t remember how to change your bed sheets. Prepare to never switch off, because, as Robert Frost said, being a poet is a condition, not a profession. It becomes inescapable, it will follow you and trap you and laugh at you until you’re mad; then when you can’t take any more it’ll pull you into it’s breast and you’ll know nobody ever felt as alive as this
Poets and performers are often hypersensitive to the world around them. How do you give yourself the love and space that you need? And how can we promote these values in society?
There’s this apparition of myself that appears behind me and feels like a mother, she wraps her arms around me when I can’t sleep and whispers soothing things in my ear and it’s how I calm down. She’s my greatest reference to love meeting my needs. I guess it’d be promoted by the presence of knowing that giving yourself what you need doesn’t mean bath bombs and other shit that can be pulled down drains as quickly as you can buy it, it’s about creating tools within you that mean no matter how loud the world gets you can always find your way to the foundation of quiet lying beneath it. I’m not a pro at this, I crack apart a lot but I see every shatter as a chance to put myself back together again in ways that make room for however much I grew by breaking. And honestly nothing is as medicinal as time spent playing chase in the woods with my best friend, Taz. Or playing tawli with my mum and dad. Or playing ‘lets only speak in rhyme’ with a lover I just met. I think playing is key to the hypersensitive type, because our problem is that we take life way too seriously.
What would you like to see change in the world?
What gives you hope?
Honestly I try not to hope. There is vacancy that lives beyond hope and we must fill it. To do that I look to find practical steps to construct that world which lives on the other side of our dreams. I seek the situations that offer medicine, that offer chance of change, and I build on those. For me that began on the practise ground of sisterhood – in all its messy and ecstatic ways – I find it to be a place where we can practise loving behaviour, and probably fail a lot, but that's when we get to activate patience, communication and mutual exchange to sustain love. Another practical step is having honest and open conversations with the people who have lived by the upper hand, like the cis, white, hetty men that plague our everything. It can be exhausting because the levels of defensiveness you meet but learning to communicate through that is going to be such a valuable skill in the long run. Finally, I find a great sense of trust - not hope, because it's more grounded and engaged than that - in finding people who are good at listening and admitting how little they know; in activist loud-mouth circles, humility is everything.