D. Colin is a community-minded poet, artist, teacher, and actor. A Cave Canem, VONA, and New York State Writers Institute fellow, Colin currently curates and hosts Poetic Vibe, a weekly poetry open mic at Troy Kitchen in Troy, NY. Colin earned her masters from University at Albany in African American Studies and poetry, a background that shines through in Dreaming in Kreyol (Empress Bohemia Press 2015), a collection of poems and prose that draws from Haitian history, culture, and family, which in her own words celebrate “the landscape and people and prose reflecting on the 2010 earthquake that shook Haiti to its core.”
Colin’s second collection, Said the Swing to the Hoop, explores an identity rooted in West Indian heritage, a religious upbringing, and trauma, mindful of poetic form and performance. In this interview, we discuss writing poetry, providing a community with a bigger voice, and getting recognized for one’s work.
Your poetry collection, Said the Swing to the Hoop, is so inspirational and powerful. Is that a goal of your work?
My goal is always to move people. I often say if I get on stage, share my work, and nobody fees anything, I must not have done my job. When my work inspires, empowers, and educates, then I feel I’ve done the work I aimed to do.
You’re involved in many local theatre arts communities. Could you talk about how that informs your work? I also would like to get involved and show the community love.
I started out in the theater by performing my poems for monologue nights. Eventually, that turned into performing monologues and reading work I hadn’t written myself. There’s something about exploring the mind of a character that expands my choices as a writer.
I think about how a reader turns a line over and over to pull the emotion from it. Good writing pulls the reader into a different world, much like acting does for actors.
You are involved in many organizations and events in the Albany and Troy area, including those with children. What type of children do you work with, and what do you teach in these workshops?
I’ve taught workshops for folks of all ages, but when I walk into a classroom of young people, what I want is for them to discover poetry on their own terms. It’s important to me that they see the possibilities of imagination and self-expression.
My favorite workshops are when a child says poetry is fun when the expectation was that it would be boring, or students feel they might want to keep writing poetry because they found a new way to enter a poem that they didn’t know was possible.
I notice you use real-life as inspiration in your poems. I can certainly relate, being a biracial, an athlete, and a college student. It is interesting to see the amount of people who can face the challenges as you do. Can you talk about using real-life struggles in your poetry?
I think it’s important to be honest about my story. Some of my work comes from a need to heal from some of my experiences.
Your bio states that you have been involved with community theater since 2009.
Community theater and spoken word poetry share much in common especially in terms of performance. I was cast for parts based on my performance as a poet, but theater has definitely informed the way I command a stage and how I navigate my presence in a space.
When you were doing your masters at UAlbany, what made you so interested in poetry and theatre arts as a concentration?
While I was at UAlbany, I had concentrations in poetry and African American literature. I’ve been writing poems since the sixth grade. As an undergrad, I started out with a completely different career goal, but eventually changed my major to English to get closer to what I’m passionate about. In graduate school, it was even more important to me to figure out what kind of writer I wanted to become.
One of the major things I felt I needed but was missing from the majority of my education prior to grad school, was a better understanding of Black literature and history. What knowledge I did have came more from me exploring the African American bookshelves in the library than from anything I learned in a classroom. Getting a Masters in Africana Studies helped to fill that void for me and inform the way in which I approach some of my content.
Out of all the awards you have won—Resourceful Woman of the Year in the Arts by YWCA- GCR and one of The Collaborative’s “Creatives under 40,” and The League of Women Voters’ presidential award, which is your most proud of and why?
That’s a tough one. Being recognized for my work is always humbling. I can’t say I’m more proud of one award or recognition than the other. What I’m grateful for is that people see me and they see what I am putting out in the world; that’s the part I’m most proud of.
You now have two poetry collections. What’s next? Do you have a new collection coming?
I think I’ll always have a new collection coming! I plan on writing poetry for the rest of my natural life.
Gianni Carillo is a talented soccer player who represents The College of Saint Rose. He has been involved with a number of highly reputable teams across the country. He played for the Red Bull’s Men’s Soccer Team, The USA men’s national team, Siena College, and ended here at Saint Rose.