You debut your latest New Year’s poem on Instagram, a platform with over 450 million followers. How did this partnership come about, and what was it like filming the video for it?
I just feel so lucky that I have been able to do this project at all, let alone with a partner like Instagram. It’s very rare in someone’s life that you might have the fortune to call one of the most global platforms in our world and say, “Hey, I have this idea.” And get such an eager and enthusiastic response.
I look forward to working with Instagram because part of what inspired me to write this New Year’s poem was to think about the stories and stories that I have seen shared over the past two years, whether it be reconciliation with grief, loss, social change, climate change. And then, many of those stories, I feel, we interact with or meet with on social media.
And Instagram is a really interesting platform… that is strongly focused on the visual, but there is also so much text – so much language. And often, more than not, when I have a hard time writing a poem, I actually want to turn to what are the images, what are the messages I see online, and how can I represent it through poetry?
For example, there is a line in “The Hill We Climb” which reads: “We have seen a force that would crush our nation instead of dividing it” – which actually came from the fact that I just scrolled through social media and saw people’s reactions to the Capitol uprising on 6 January. That is, I believe that the ways in which we interact and share our narratives are a tremendous source of not just poetry but also power.
And there is also a special donation aspect to this project?
Absolutely. I am one of those people where I always feel like I want to put my money and my actions where my mouth is. So it is insufficient for me just to write a poem. I want to think about how does that poem live in a particular space? And how does it literally pay off? And so, in working on Instagram, we felt that it would be a great meeting time if this poem also pointed people to some kind of action-friendly step that they could take. And that is partly a donable aspect of drawing attention to the International Rescue Committee, which is doing such important work globally, but also so much the more urgent in the COVID era.
You collaborated with stylist Jason Bolden on your look for this Instagram collaboration. How has it been working with him throughout the year?
I love Jason and I just feel so grateful to have him on my team. When this year first started, I had no stylist, no makeup artist, no hairdresser. And then I really just flew past the seat of my pants, showed up for covers or sets and had no idea what was going on. For the inauguration, my hair, makeup, clothes – that was all I did.
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