Create Out Loud

with Jennifer Louden

15 | Poet Tamkio Beyer On Creative Play And Freedom

Show Notes

In this episode:

  • How poet, author, and social communications writer and strategist Tomiko Beyer writes truth to power and finds space for play and imagination in the starlight.
  • How creative playfulness can enact social change
  • Thoughts on taking capitalism out of your creative process
  • How to re-think book launches
  • Craft advice for writing poetry
  • How Tamiko's multi-language childhood informs her work


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Tamiko Beyer's acclaimed poetry collection, Last Days, was assembled from a collection of poetry written over the course of decade, which speaks to Tamiko's sense of open-minded freedom and patience when it comes to work.

For Tamiko, the creative process is all about leaving space for play and imagination. By relieving the pressure and intensity of "generating a product" when it comes to our work, we actually create more space to tell the truth and generate our most authentic work.

Tamiko’s work asks, “How can we reclaim play and wonder as anti-racist, anti-capitalist acts? How can we engage in play and wonder and delight for their own sake, while also working towards serious radical change?”

I think about play as kind of a place where we can experiment and let our imaginations really run wild. The stakes are pretty low when you're playing. But that doesn't mean that there's not seriousness that can then arise from what you learn in play.

She talks about play as subversion, resistance, and reclaiming space in the commodification of everything we do. Which made me feel hopeful and optimistic that perhaps this is something I could apply to Create + Climate.

With the media, parroting what the powers that be want to communicate, which is that there is no hope so we might as well just consume until the end of the world, it really can weigh people down—weigh us down in terms of thinking about climate crisis, white supremacy...like how can we change anything? So to break out of that, I think, leaning into play and leaning into joy and leaning into magic—it's a way to expand our imaginations and to be like, ‘Oh, actually, no, this isn't how it has to be.’

How can we expand our imagination? What if central to creating out loud is finding ways to maintain our space for imagination through practices and communities that allow for expansiveness?

I asked Tamiko about her writing process and how much play plays a role for her.

Sometimes I have an idea of what I want to write...and I just play, especially with poetry—play with sounds, the sounds of language, the images that come up, associations—and I just see where it takes me. And then, of course, the editing process is where control and shaping and polish comes from. But the initial draft, on a good day, it really is like play.

Like me, she’s a big believer in structure and maintaining a writing schedule (my teeny tiny containers I teach about) but there’s always room for play.

We talked about her latest book, the poetry collection Last Days, and how she found the time to create it—writing poetry for seven years alongside an intense day job, keeping that part of her alive despite the demands of her other work—a decade in the making, from start to finish.

It gave me an ability to really play with the poems because I wasn't tied to them as they were. I didn't feel like, ‘this is the perfect precious version,’ because I had so much distance from it. ‘It can become something else if it needs to.’ So for a lot of the poems, I took a stanza from this poem, and I took a stanza from the poem I wrote five years back…’Oh, they're speaking to each other across this distance of years, and they actually belong together in the same poem.’ That was a really interesting, interesting process...

Like the book development itself, her book launch is unfolding in an interesting way too. She’s doing it in a way that aligns with her values. You’ll want to listen closely here; I wish I’d spoken to her before my last book launch for Why Bother?.

Tamiko talks about rethinking how we do things when we’re not interested in competing or scarcity. Many of us would rather follow an artistic impulse not to make something to sell it but to make something to share with other people and uplift them.

In her own way, she answers the ongoing dilemma of how to navigate capitalism and also pay the bills as an artist by embracing the mess of it all. And she’s excited about sharing lessons learned so other people can bring their own versions of book launching and artistic sharing to life.

We also discussed how her background, growing up in two cultures, speaking two languages shapes her work.

I became a poet because of this, because of how I understood that the world is not just one thing, that it's much bigger than how a single language would frame it, and the way we categorize things based on culture, based on language. I feel like poetry is as close as possible in my own personal experience, to being able to hold all of the complexities and contradictions and mysteries of the world.

This and so much more.

Join me as we learn how Tamiko Beyer creates out loud.

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