I had the pleasure of chatting with performance artist Naomi Wood about her poetry work and how identifying as a queer woman influences her writing and creativity.
You mention only being able to write love poems about women, why do you think that might be?
I think there is a part of me that does not want to give my most concentrated power away to men, particularly in the collective, in the form of any creativity. I am in awe of women in a totally unique and powerful way.
I feel inspired to also create work that responds to them as strong, brave, wise and intrepid, to create work that speaks of things other than their physical beauty and celebrates the multiplicity of female expression and experience.
As a spoken word artist, your work is often performed and heard rather than read, what kind of power does adding your voice to your work offer that ‘page’ poems lack?
I love how you can be so playful with performed spoken poems. There’s all the power of pause and breath, eye contact, body language and rhythm that you can throw behind a piece that gives it such weight and texture.
Has this poem been performed out loud, live, for an audience, and if so, how did it feel for you as an artist to use and share your voice in this way, to praise same-sex relationships, and what was the reaction?
I performed this live on zoom at The Poetry Brothel New York show in March. It felt empowering, erotic. I was pouring hot wax on myself at the time as I spoke the words slowly… it was a celebration of a kind of self love as well.
The self reflected in the other as well as the other’s differences. I was surprised how many people said afterwards that they resonated with it. Love is a universal language after all.
Have you ever shared this, or any of your other queer-focused poetry with a lover/loved one? If so, what was their reaction. And/Or has a lover ever shared a poem like this about you with you?
Haha! I have shared this with the person who inspired it in me! I think it’s always important to tell someone when they appear in your work, or in your dreams and to tell strangers in the street if they’re beautiful to you. This is how we rub the soles of each other’s tired feet.
It’s always weird showing up in other people’s work, but usually an honour I’m glad of!
Your poem suggests to me that there is a deep but delicate trust within same-sex relationships between women and that being welcomed into that trust is a gift. Do you feel that the love women have to offer differs from other love and is in some ways more sacred?
Ooof what a question. I guess I can’t speak about the myriad of other types of relationships and orientations. But I think there is a shared sense of experience, an acknowledgement of the struggles and peculiarities of life in same-sex relationships.
I never like to dwell on binary things like ‘masculine ‘or ‘feminine which seem to be so socially constructed but I feel like I get to explore hidden parts of myself in relationships with other women. There is more room for both of you to be flexible somehow with your attributes and what you bring to the other. But maybe that is really how all relationships can work ideally, free from gender constructs and constraints!
Thanks so much to Naomi for sharing with me. I feel the same way about working towards limitless relationships free of the constraints of the gender binary. I am also intrigued by her performance merging hot wax and poetry on Zoom! Once these lockdowns lift, I’ve got to see that live.
You can find more of Naomi’s work online here www.naomiwoodmodel.com and follow her on social media here @naomiwoodwrites on Instagram and Naomi Wood on Facebook.
by Naomi Wood @naomiwoodwrites
The gift is her asking me to unfasten
To watch the old stories burn
With their binding.
I thought I might become rain
At the site of so much tenderness.
Curling my spine the other way
To see myself for the first time.
The gift is being ripe again.
In full bloom through the seasons,
It’s waking up after the longest winter.
It’s cutting my hair so they couldn’t climb it
To my thoughts.
Hard won after being locked in the tower.
Turns out I had the key all along.
I’d swallowed it down with the taste of honey and marzipan
Still ringing on my lips
Like church bells.
The gift is her fingernails
In my skin
Five instruments to carve her name
Into my flesh
As I lose my breathe to speak it.
It’s all the softness and rage
And meeting the same river
As the typhoon keeps gathering speed.
Wave after wave
Forging new pathways in its wake
But the gift.
The soil is regenerating.
My flesh bears new blooms.
And she tastes each one
Like they are a rare and precious delicacy-
fruit furred with gold.
We show each other the seams
Where we restitched our flesh
Tracing the lines with fingertips
The gift is memorising the details.
Swallowing the seeds
Like children hoping
The fruit tree will bloom
In our centre.
The gift is bleeding for ourselves again
Coughing up the medicine they fed us to
Regulate our trips to the moon.
But now we have made branches
Of our bodies and sails
From our skin.
And we water the ground
With hot showers for our dancing feet.
The gift is that here, locked away from the world
We become architects of new landscapes
And can make a home anywhere.
The gift is that we can grow ourselves.
She / Her | Instagram
Interviewed by Bella Cox