The Creative Wellness Project: Warren Longmire
I fell in love with Warren Longmire’s poetry in the summer of 2012. Unafraid to take risks with his writing I couldn’t help but wonder what the Philadelphia native had to say about wellness from a creative point of view. Cultivating good health in an urban environment often inspires innovation. Cities can offer a rich cultural scene with ample opportunities to nourish artistic souls. Here’s what he had to say about his work and creative wellness.
Tell us about your background and what inspired you to start writing?
I was born in North Central Philadelphia, a few blocks north of Strawberry Mansion and to the east of Ridge. It was undeniably the hood, though our block was full of trees and had much less abandoned homes than most. I grew up happy.
I started writing seriously in the eleventh grade, so at about 16 years of age. I was in AP English class and we had our first poetry unit. I’ve been interested in words for a long time and read whatever I could get my hands on. I also really dug music lyrics and was the kind of hip-hop listener who rewound pieces of songs over and over until hot bars were completely deconstructed.
That class, though, was the first time I found out that poetry was a field dedicated to that kind of attention to detail in literature. I saw a real freedom in how any word could be verb or how metaphors could be stretched. That place of freedom is something I still strive for in my writing.
What does your writing aim to do?
In my writing workshops as well as in my performances, I try to push the edges of what words can do and mean. My work is often concerned with social issues like race or masculinity, but I’m always hesitant to write a poem simply to explain a particular message. Instead, I am interested in how writing and performance as artistic forms can create a world around those issues and put the reader in it. More then anything, it is important to me for the first purpose of my writing to be to create. It should be fun. Picasso once said that he strove get to a point where he could draw like he did when he was 5 years old. I think, with the sense of wonder and play inherent at that age, that this is a worthy goal for any and every artist.
What has been your biggest challenge and how do you overcome it?
Shit, that’s a hard one. Probably leaving my home and religion. I grew up in a very religiously strict household and deciding to leave it behind really forced me to reevaluate just about everything I thought about life. It was a rocky, educational time, my 20s.
What book would you recommend everyone should read?
I’m seriously digging on Does Your House Have Lions right now by Sonia Sanchez. It’s a quick read and really shows what poetry, in the form of a book, can do. For fiction I’m just gonna say A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, for both the mastery of language and the way it approaches freedom of thought. Non-fiction I would say Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon. His writing and logic are just unstoppable.
Who’s your favorite writer and why?
I’m going to go with Amiri Baraka. The energy of his poems are still a true north for me. Plus, the dude could do anything, plays, poems, stories, and essays to a lesser extent. No other poet has probably influenced me like him.
Do you have a creative wellness practice? Something creative that you do to encourage yourself to take better care of yourself?
I exercise most days, alternating between sit-ups and pushups sets with some yoga/meditation just after. I walk everywhere and bike sometimes. As far as creative self-care, I’d say listen to new music, preferably as whole albums. Get obsessed with them. It’s easier than ever to find new music and there is no easier way to push your mind than to try to understand what makes an album of music do what it does.