Who are you?

Hi, my name’s Kate. I’m a writer from the midwest living in Brooklyn. My loves are my dog Banjo, herbalism, motorcycles, Bob Seger, the color blue, tequila, collaborative art, and jackalopes in non-specific order.

 

What are you doing?

I created the Pandemic Poems project really with the help of two friends, Emi and Jackie. I met them both through performing at The Poetry Brothel here in New York City as a part of the Poetry Society of NY.

I started writing poems via e-mail with Jackie and Emi, but quickly started writing them with other friends (who saw what we were up to through social media) and then strangers. I’ve now written collaborative poetry with over fifty people I’ve never met “in real life.”

The website came a couple weeks in because I wanted the poems to be able to hang out together somewhere, and also to track the time as it passed.

 

Why are you doing it?

This project has really been carrying my heart through the current chaos of the outside world.

I’ve written poetry with everyone from my 80-year-old aunt (who is incredible, hi Aunt Kathryn) to other poets in New York City, to people who I know nothing about.

I’m so grateful to anyone who’s thrown a hand out to me during this time and I can only hope that I’ve been able to throw one back behind me to help someone else.

 

What does making collaborative art mean to you?

It means that where my voice begins and ends can lean a bit more towards watercolor than normal. In making a poem together, it’s experimentation of multivocality and braiding, both.

 

What do you get from creating with another person or multiple people?

I feel a sense of responsibility in the making of a thing and therefore I have more of a dedication to the practice of creating. If I was alone trying to write right now, I think that I would easily slip into an apathy, or even inadequacy. I don’t feel like one voice alone is enough to tell the story of right now.

 

Can you speak a bit to the workshops you’ve been doing in the online space?

Yes (I thought you’d never ask, haha)! I’m trying to create workshops right now really based in the “play” of writing. I think that if we can seek out joy from unexpected poetry right now, it allows us another access or vantage point to the world. I’ve done “escape plan poem” which is a form I invented as a “healthy form of stress fantasy,” I’ve also taught Night Moves by Bob Seger as a way to experiment with movement in work, and will teach a poetry and plants workshop in May.

For me, I think everyone should be able to have access to poetry and writing and language and all the ways those words can mean for them. It’s really about self-expression for me and not so much of “right” and “wrong.” Because the pay off in removing those barriers is that there are more voices being heard.

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KATE BELEW is a Brooklyn Based writer from the Midwest. She has been involved in projects of writing with Poets House, The National Book Critics Circle, The Poetry Society of New York, Evolver, The New York City Poetry Festival, Slice Magazine, The Poetry Brothel, Publisher's Weekly, and Milk Press.  She also works as a content and marketing consultant for Evolver and The Alchemist's Kitchen among others. She is a recent graduate from Sarah Lawrence College's MFA in Poetry where she taught seventh-grade creative writing at The Baccalaureate School for Global Education in Queens, New York, and facilitated a Women's Writing Group at Westchester Correctional Facility. Follow her on Instagram: @k8belew

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