50-for-50 interview: akka b., practical poet

akka b, poet

Not only is akka b. emblematic of what it means to embrace the Ojai way of life, she is one of its primary tractor beams. From the moment I met her at the town’s unofficial a.m. kaffeeklatsch, I was impelled to learn more. How did this mother/writer/erstwhile-wood-nymph do it? She was clearly in her element here in this funky vortex of nature and art—woowoo-friendly, we like to call it—but there was no question that she was as conversant in urban culture and high style as she was trees, streams, and the play of the light on the local mountains. It turns out that like most of my very favorite people, she is a synthesizer: in her case, fusing the practical and the mystical via words and pictures, serving as a bridge between a “real” world that grows increasingly unreal and a neglected one that may bring us back to ourselves. She charms even the most trenchant skeptics with her lighthearted lack of attachment and reveals herself to fellow travelers by her sparkling pureness of heart. When people say it is the poets who will save us, it’s poets like akka b. they’re talking about. Even if they don’t know it yet themselves.

When did you decide to become a writer?

Writing decided me. I had very little and maybe nothing at all to do with it. There are things in my life I do remember ‘deciding,’ like what elective I would choose in high school, or what country I would blow all my savings in. But I don’t believe one can decide to be a writer. I think one can only recognize that they already are.

Signs I Was Probably a Writer:

I didn’t like toys; I did like cloud-signing; I didn’t like talking to people; I did like groping trees; I was mostly a loner; I was nearly always secretly pretending to be someone else – living somewhere else; I thought I was an alien; I meditated in closets; I stole bird eggs; I didn’t try to impress English teachers; I used Cliff Notes excessively; I thought school was a bad system; I liked autobiographies of eccentric, powerful women; I hung out in crystal shops, played Tarot cards and drank tea.

Who was your favorite teacher?

My ex-husband. (Well maybe not my favorite, but likely my most influential). I’m convinced he was assigned to me just so I could know what it feels like to have no voice. The fury I experienced from this ‘gift,’ built the fire that empowered me to never be silenced again.  Thank you ex-husband.

And also… Trees. Rocks. Dirt. Alchemy. Sky. Forest. Mountains. Courage. Thunder. Fireflies. Dreams. Forgiveness. Weeds. Sticks. Bones. Acceptance. Clouds. Wind. Feathers. Trust. Magicalness. Love. Trees.

What do you love to write about?

Myself. I am my very best experiment, because I am always with me. Devoted to the evolution of the soul as it wrestles with fear and freedom; I experience great satisfaction stripping back the multi-faceted layers of messy, blissy humanness; learning to be more brave, and hoping my nakedness rouses others to do the same.

What has writing taught you?

I am not really the writer. I am the catcher. To be a decent catcher you have to be engaged, keep your eyes open and watch for the ball – anticipate it and never underestimate the force by which it may arrive. Your hands have to be empty – available to receive, once you do, you’ve got to let go, so that you can receive again.

How has writing made you stronger?

It anchors me to my heart. Useful words are plucked from the depths of vulnerability. To write with strength one must expose oneself to every kind of weakness. Walk through the flames of unworthiness, grief, anger and love – facing every fear – until there is no fear left to face. My nectarine puddle-heart is not just a place I enter; it’s a place I have learned to let myself be.

If you could go back in time and tell 10-year-old you anything, what would it be?

Ask for help.

What are your five favorite books, blogs or things to read?

Other people’s minds; between-the-lines; weekly horoscopes; the usual mythology section of any bookstore; Sufi Poets; creative Facebook commentary; out loud and in bed with my daughter. Did you say five?

akka b. was singing to trees well before she could talk, talking long before she could make words, and drawing perspective decades prior to finding confidence with a pen. Technically, her poetic artistry is 100% self-taught, yet she has been mentored by mystics from around the world, coaxed by luminaries, inspired by nature and called steadfastly to live and grow as an example of self-acceptance; self-love and self-expression. Her work stirs the heart and has been known to awaken dormant creativity in people of every age and echelon. Akka says, “Poetry is more than pretty words placed to impress, true poetry connects the dots between soul and world; it brightens, deepens, and cracks open the windows of intellect so we may experience the full range of our heart.” Intent on smashing open our world’s modern relationship to poetry, akka b. has been producing interactive poetry events, videos, speaking about the creative/cathartic process and serving as mentor to budding writers. Her forthcoming book and CD are set for release in 2011.

Photo by Jonas Llewellyn MacPhail.

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