A Conversation with Author Lorraine Currelley
Lorraine Currelley, Founder and Executive for Poets Network and Exchange, the Executive Director for the Bronx Book Fair and the 2020–2022 Bronx Beat Poet Laureate State of New York.
Having grown up in the heart of Harlem, a place which most residents referred to as our village and home, because of the care and nurturing bestowed upon its children. Very few of us got to grow into adulthood realizing our passions and dreams. The pursuit of things that ignite the flame, stoke the fires of heart and spirit. They were considered luxury. This was not the case here, as long as I can remember Lorraine Currelley had dreams of wanting to make a difference. A rebel we use to tease. Stirring up, to borrow a quote from the Honorable John Lewis “Good Trouble.” She always rallied friends and neighbors in effort of the good fight. I remember our long walks. People we wanted to pattern, the kind of lives we wanted to live and lead. Our most heartfelt goals and dreams laid in perpetuity.
My sister and I shared these things and so much more. It’s only by the sound nurturing of our mother Annie Daniels Currelley, god’s grace, strong will and determination of this steadfast accomplished author, writer and now Poet Laureate, that I’m able to conduct this interview by witness in the first person. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I was in honor of conducting it.
In researching questions, I found her reputation precedes her. She’s thought
of highly by the New York City arts and literary communities as well as others for her organizations work and contributions in service to others.
Wearing so many hats, how do you find time to write?
Finding time to write can be challenging at times. However, the saving grace is, when I have something to say I write. Carving out specific times to write is not part of my writing process. When It comes to meeting deadlines, I keep deadlines in focus and make certain to meet them.
The organizations you run are separate in their own right, do they ever intersect?
While separate they do intersect. They share common interests, goals and
objectives. One being to provide the best literary and artistic programming
and opportunities for community. Poets Network & Exchange was inspired by older creatives and is rooted in our mission’s purpose to serve, encourage and support older creatives. To provide a welcoming space and community for creating and performance. In the beginning we learned several of our older creatives were writing in isolation, keeping their work to themselves and not sharing with an audience. This changed with participation in our writing workshops. Participants are now performing publicly and publishing. We made the decision early on to expand our programming. We now serve a multigenerational community. To navigate both organizations effectively requires being organized and having the support and trust of community.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Yes, writing for me is a spiritual practice and experience. My ancestors are
always present, offering their love, support, wisdom and guidance. I never write alone. I call on my life experiences, my rooted foundation.
How many unpublished and half finished books do you have?
I have completed manuscripts and manuscripts undergoing revision for publication.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had
I remember being in the sixth grade and having my composition considered
for participation in a citywide school competition by my sixth grade female
teacher. I was one of two finalists at my school. Alexander a male classmate was chosen to represent our school. Chosen not because his composition was better. Chosen because it was felt he was needed to represent Negro manhood and leadership. He did not win. I knew in my gut I would have won. Though, I don’t dwell on it, I have never forgotten this injustice.
What period of your life do you find you write about the most and why?
As the matriarch of my family my focus is on family stories, folklore, herstory, history and memories. I am writing these as part of my family’s legacy. If I do not leave my stories, memories, family folklore and information they will be
lost forever. This is not to say I do not write about current issues and subjects of interest.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
I would have to say the technical aspects of writing. Paying attention to
grammar while ignoring it in favor of keeping my flow. Later revisiting my
work to make needed grammatical corrections.
In retrospect, is there anything in your life you could have done to make yourself a better writer?
Writing for me is an ongoing learning process. I’m constantly trying to learn and improve my usage of the creative and technical aspects of writing in the usage of language. The more you write and study the better your growth.
If you could thank one historical figure not related, for pointing the way forward whom would you choose and why?
There are many responsible for my survival. Ancestors who paved the way.
Persons with life commitments to fight injustice. My choices are John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer and Harriet Tubman. John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer and
Harriet Tubman risked their lives fighting for my freedom and right to live as a full human being. They were courageous, determined, focused, committed and resilient. They never gave up, nor cowered even while being subjected to unimaginable brutality. I see this same resiliency and spirit in the Honorable Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
How has COVID-19 impacted your writing and both your organization’s function?
As an organization we are unable to physically host gatherings. We must now rely on technology for virtual programming. Physical interactions with our resident and artist community are missed. We’re looking forward to the time when we can gather once again safely. Community health and safety has always been and remains our priority. I admit to experiencing sadness, a result of the pandemic, the unceasing news of COVID-19 sickness and deaths. I miss past freedoms which include restricted movement. I mourn the voices integrity and leadership of honorable individuals Fannie Lou Hamer and John Lewis. I remain hopeful. I am becoming increasingly reflective. There’s
a heightened urgency, a need to get it all down when it comes to my writing.
I would like to add I’m presently participating in to two exhibits. They are
Climbing The Walls/COVID-19 a collaboration between Studio Theater in Exile, co-founders Mara Mills and Jeremy Gratt and Hudson Valley MOCA,
Livia Strauss and Jo-Ann Brody. I am Juneteenth guest curator and a COVID-19 contributor. I’m also participating in Writing The Walls, Hudson Valley MOCA, Jo-Ann Brody and Mara Mills, Editors.
Thank you, Edward D. Currelley for this interview and the opportunity to collaborate on this project by sharing my words with MEDIUM readers.
Interviewed by Guest Author Edward D. Currelley
Author can be contacted via Poets & Writers Author Directory.
and his website: edwardcurrelley.wix.com/the-poet