Raven Bland: The Moxie Bee Interview
Raven Bland describes herself as someone who doesn’t seek attention, but there is a directness and a strength in her voice which makes one pay attention to her words. Raven Bland, featured on The Moxie Bee earlier this week, is Norfolk, VA’s first Youth Poet Laureate. Despite a very busy schedule packed with college courses at ODU, part time work, and her YPL duties, Raven agreed to an interview last week.
The Moxie Bee: Do you find time to write as a working college student?
Raven Bland: I don’t have those moments that I used to have where I’d sit down and say, “I’m going to write.” If something happens or I’m feeling a certain way, I will write it out. But, if I’m not inspired I don’t very often.
The Moxie Bee: What are you reading right now?
Raven Bland: *laughs* Text books! I’m a History/Poli. Sci major, so there is a LOT of reading. My sister got me this app called Watt Pad where new writers who aren’t yet famous can upload short stories or even a chapter of a book. In between things I can just read a couple short stories or part of a novel.
The Moxie Bee: What was the first poem you ever read?
Raven Bland: Mine or someone else’s?
The Moxie Bee: *laughs* Both.
Raven Bland: *laughs* OK. The first poem I read of my own was at my church. I belonged to the youth group and we had just changed our name to “THIS”, which stands for Totally His. I wrote a poem about the name change and the meaning behind it. I read it from the page. Now I like doing spoken word performances better.
The Moxie Bee: Better than reading the poem from the page?
Raven Bland: Yes. I was very nervous. But that was an amazing day.
The Moxie Bee: How do you deal with nerves when you perform now?
Raven Bland: I just try to relax. I don’t think about . I look over my poems a little beforehand, and that’s it. Usually, my family is there–so I talk to them.
The Moxie Bee: What about the first poem you read by another writer?
Raven Bland: Well, it wasn’t really a poem, but when I was younger, maybe 11 or 12, I read Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”, and how she overcame silence by reading books in the library and then expressing herself through writing–that really spoke to me. I wanted to write, too.
The Moxie Bee: And you did!
Raven Bland: Yes!
The Moxie Bee: Who are your favorite poets?
Raven Bland: Maya Angelou! *laughs* I really love what she did.
The Moxie Bee:*laughs* Yes, I read her around the same age you did. She made an impression. Any other poets?
Raven Bland: There are a couple of my friends who are poets in TWP (Teens With a Purpose). I really like their work.
The Moxie Bee: What are your duties as Norfolk, VA’s Youth Poet Laureate?
Raven Bland: I’ve done a lot of functions , especially during the summer. I spoke and did a reading for Norfolk Public Library’s Summer Reading program at the new library downtown. One of the poets from TWP turned one of my poems into a song. She sang the first stanza and then I read and she sang the last stanza.
The Moxie Bee: I would’ve loved to hear that! This was at the Slover Library?
Raven Bland: Yes. It was very nice. Also I do a lot of work with the Norfolk Police Department. I spoke and read at an anti-bullying rally. Also anti-gang programs.
The Moxie Bee: That’s great to hear. They keep you busy?
Raven Bland: Yes, you know Norfolk has a lot of issues with gang and gun violence. So we need programs like that.
The Moxie Bee: Yes, I taught in Norfolk.
The Moxie Bee: What has been your favorite part of being Norfolk, VA’s Youth Poet Laureate?
Raven Bland: I meet lots of new people. I’ve made some good connections, especially at the non-profit organizations. After college I’m interested in a career with a non-profit, or maybe with the government.
The Moxie Bee: Since you were the very first one, what advice would you have for the next Youth Poet Laureate?
Raven Bland: Know yourself. Know what you’re passionate about, because you’re going to have a chance to reach a lot of people. It really makes it easier if you know your passion and have a plan.
The Moxie Bee: What, specifically are your passions? We talked about your work with the NPD on anti-gang/anti-bullying initiatives. Are there other areas you are passionate about?
Raven Bland: My passions are history, political science,religion, and social awareness for the most part.
The Moxie Bee: Yes, that was a very thoughtful answer.
The Moxie Bee:When does your book come out?
Raven Bland: Right now I’m sorting through poems. I have a big binder of poems going back to 2007. I’m picking out the ones I feel belong in the book. The goal is to have it ready by the end of January. Mr. Nathan, is helping me with it; he’s really my mentor for the book project.
(Editor’s note: Since 2010 Nathan Richardson has served as the lead coach for the Hampton Roads Youth Poets Slam Team. HRYP is a division of the youth empowerment organization – Teens with a Purpose.)
The Moxie Bee: I know Nathan Richardson through Facebook and his writing. We’ve spoken a couple times. Great guy. And busy! Wonderful that you’re working with him on the book. When will it be released?
Raven Bland: We’re aiming to get it out in April 2016, before the next Youth Poet Laureate is chosen.
The Moxie Bee: I can’t wait to read it.
Raven Bland: Thank you!
The Moxie Bee: Thank you for making time to talk with me. I know how busy you’ve been, so it’s appreciated.
Raven Bland: Oh, you’re welcome! I enjoyed it.
Raven Bland and I corresponded a bit by email after our interview. Those of you who know me will recognize that when it comes to young writers and poetry, sometimes I can’t help myself. Dismayed that such a talented writer as Ms. Bland was not currently reading or being exposed to more contemporary poets, I apologized for being a ‘Poetry Busybody” and sent her a list of poets, books, and poetry video links.
She assured me that I was “perfectly fine” to send her the list and that an older cousin who is also working on a book often encouraged her to widen her literary horizons. She told me that although she does not have a lot of time she would check out the list.
For now, my work is done.
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