by Shonette Reed
At 27-years-old, Chiree Graham has racked up a solid Instagram following through sharing poetry. Originally from Woodbridge, VA, Graham moved to NYC in 2014 after graduating from pharmacy school. Though she ended up moving back to Woodbridge last year to take care of her mother, poetry has been a part of Graham’s for nearly her entire life.
“I’m not sure I’d say I ever got into it; it’s something that has been in me for as long as I can remember.” Graham shared in an email with Resolute Magazine. “It’s something that has been in me for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved words. My mom has poetry I wrote for her saved from when I could barely write.”
Like many artists, Graham is inspired by the works of Nikki Giovanni and Maya Angelou; she even gets inspiration from Oprah’s motivational speeches.
Resolute Magazine caught up with Chiree Graham to discuss her inspiration for writing and her creative process, what role she feels social media plays in art, and the importance of art during Trump’s presidency.
How big of a role do you feel social media plays in sharing art?
Oh, it’s huge. You found me on Instagram. I think it’s a good platform to initiate a creative career. Your page is your portfolio. Aside from the audience you gain, it’s an easy and accessible way to find like-minded individuals. There are a lot of people who want to help creatives succeed. There’s a strong movement of turning passions into profit with Millennials, and social media is a catalyst.
Do you feel that there are enough opportunities for poets to succeed?
With the way social media has blown up, specifically Instagram, there are definitely major platforms to get your work out there. Finding what differentiates you from the next writer/poet is what determines your success as well. I think if you find that, you become comfortable in your writing style, and learn how to display it, everyone can win. Personally, I’m constantly working on creating using my writing in different ways. Creative collaborations with other artists is an interesting component in this as well. Collaborations open up completely new and different avenues. I just want to keep the pure creative nature of poetry. There are so many ways to display that. I’m working on exploring all those options.
How would you describe your writing style?
I would describe it as clear and easy to understand; introspective, and poetic.
What is your creative process?
I need complete silence when I write. I’m usually sitting on my bed Indian style, with my phone on "Do Not Disturb."I don’t make outlines or anything when I write longer pieces. I start with a thought that strikes enough of an emotional chord with me that I need to explore it. I go where my heart leads me.
Are there any poets/writers/artists you’re inspired by?
My biggest inspirational literary influences are Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, and Oprah. That list could be a lot longer, but those have been there since the beginning.
Do you feel that there’s a lack of women poets?
I don’t think so. I think women poets are more prominent now more than ever. In my experience, women really support each other in this realm and are helping share platforms with each other’s audiences.
Do you still do anything with your pharmacy degree? Or are you fully pursuing writing and poetry?
CG: "I'm doing both, actually. I do currently practice at a medication counseling center."
SR: Have you ever dealt with writer’s/creative block? How do you deal with it?
I don’t usually have writer’s block, mainly because I literally have to be moved to write something. It’s a need to release. The words come. I also am a firm believer in affirmations. One of my daily affirmations is, “I am a Creator.” I speak that on myself. There was a period where I stopped writing for years. I resented the incessant need to write- like I couldn’t like properly without it. I never wanted to be that dependent on something. I think we tend to fight what we desire for the most sometimes, and that was the case for me. I had many talks with God and we figured it out lol. You can’t run from your destiny.
Do you perform your pieces?
Not recently, but I have a couple extended invitations to do so floating around. I definitely plan to get back into it soon. I’m working on a few different creative avenues to display my work right now.
Do you hope to release a book one day?
Absolutely. I think that will happen sooner than people anticipate. I’m very excited about it.
Obviously, books are titled after the theme of the pieces written. At this point in your life, what would you title your book?
I’ll go with, Turning Point. The literal definition of that phrase is, “a time at which a decisive change in a situation occurs, especially one with beneficial results.” Perfect.
Were there any incidents in your life that inspired a body of work?
Definitely. Labor Day 2013 when I was at college in Hampton, VA, my friends and I went out to a lounge in Norfolk and I ended up getting stabbed in my forearm. I lost a lot of blood. I had to get surgery to repair the nerves/tendons and go through months of physical therapy. I graduated before I could complete physical therapy so I still don’t have full feeling in three of my fingers on my right hand.
I saw that you wrote an article for Blavity. It was one of your firsts. Congratulations! Do you feel that it was well-received?
I do. I feel like because I write from the heart and experience, a lot of people are more receptive. One of the most common comments I get is how relatable my pieces are. I write a lot about vulnerability, and that was the central theme for that post as well. I mean regardless of whether or not we know each other, knowing that we’re not alone in our experiences makes like a little easier.
Do you ever receive negative comments/reactions to your work? How do you handle it?
I haven’t received any negative comments about it. I’ve received silence from people who know me and know how important it is to me. I focus on the love. That’s what it’s about for me.
On a scale of one to 10, how important do you feel poetry is during Trump’s Presidency? Why that number?
10. I feel that way regardless of who is in office. Poetry has always been a form of activism and I think it’s imperative that we continue to express ourselves no matter what we feel. This is why Nikki Giovanni is one of my idols, though. She used her words to affect change. That’s powerful.