Everyone has a story to tell; each one of us a writer of poetry – some, without even realising. That stream of consciousness that runs in our veins? It’s poetry waiting to be written. We believe in the power of words, and that power is what urged us to set up PoetsIN.
It’s because of those inner streams, that we bring you this regular interview feature, Writer Profiles. An interview with a writer. Some you’ll know, some you won’t.
This week we meet a woman that is paying it forward, creating a movement and changing lives. Her name is Brieanne Tanner.
Sit back with a big cup of karmic balance and read this week’s writer profile.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Brieanne Kathleen Tanner, my writer handle used most often is brie kali. I’m a yoga teacher, mama of one, volunteer, writer/poet, and am working on a movement in the state of Michigan called Prison Yoga Project. I also teach yoga to the underserved, specifically victims of abuse.
How would you label your writing and/or poetry if forced to label it?
I’ve been called an ethereal, esoteric mystical, and, edgy, new age, and hallucinatory writer. Sometimes my writing is soft and subtle and at other times, it’s intense. I can be carefree and lighthearted and super serious about my material.
What is your relationship with words and how has that evolved over time?
At a young age, I started writing poetry and stringing rhyme schemes together. I was a stellar student and my dad submitted one of my poems to Gallaudet University, a school in Washington, DC for the deaf. My dad recently sent me several other poems I wrote in my elementary years. In high school, I found myself naturally gravitating towards the pen because I didn’t use drugs and I wasn’t popular. I didn’t understand the whole game of popularity and was painfully shy. I only knew how to study really well and write my heart out. Subsequently, one of my short stories won an award in the literary magazine. It was published along with a poem called Timeless Dreams. I started drifting from rhyming schemes around this time and channelling my emotions into the pen in the form of characters and words. I always felt better after writing a piece, whether it was published it or not. In college, I initially majored in English. However, simultaneously I became enamoured with counterculture, psychology, and philosophy. My grades in English were good, but grammar was not my forte. Around college, I really started to experience life which has given me plenty of writing material to write about in the past decade. I’m 39 and have a life story that couldn’t have been better scripted.
How long have you been writing/performing?
Writing is a lifelong practice. I’ve been writing and constructing poems since I was a child. I call myself a spontaneous poet, and always love writing papers on non-fiction papers on spirituality, human resources, I read a couple of poems in high school but suffered from stage fright. However, I recently just started reading spoken word poems on my own in front of the camera, and in front of a live audience One of our fellow members, Isabella has been a major influence in live cathartic expression. I’m so excited to move into the spoken word realm. I just promoted my first book, Purgeatory, live on February 15, 2019, exactly 2.5 years after it was published.
Is mental health something you feel strongly about?
Absolutely. Mental health issues play a theme in my first book Purgatory. I’m very interested in the Karmic effect one’s mental state has on one’s actions. If one suffers from PTSD and Schizophrenia and is arrested, does this make them a bad person? No, this makes them a dis-eased individual, a sentient being that is suffering. Those that have bipolar without psychosis, often have gorgeous internal worlds and need to express themselves in some way besides the normal small-talk manner. Then they become more at ease. Mental illness is merely not being in a state of ease. Who is in a state of 100% ease in this Kali-yuga anyway? That’s a bit of a hyperbole, being that I meditate and practice yoga intensely, but we are not living in a sound environment, mentally ill or not. I believe a lot of issues can be purged through writing and yoga, and of course through the support of like-minded people. Bipolar, Autism and any other labels only mean that one’s experiences living in a different way. Anyone on the DSM spectrum should be treated just like their counterparts. For example, Highly sensitive people have nervous systems are wired more intricately. This doesn’t mean that they are overly sensitive and will start crying like a baby. It means they are in tune with everything: the birds, music, breath, intentions, and other realms, etc. This is why I care so much about prisoners and their fate. I’m working on the Prison Yoga Project because I believe here on earth, one deserves to be rehabilitated, not hated. Who are we as citizens to just sit here and watch them rot? A lot of these guys suffer from complex PTSD and mental illness and yoga and writing can help alleviate their suffering.
Tell us the difference and similarities for photography and writing.
Photography captures an actual concrete moment. Really talented photographers capture the subtleties that may not meet the eye at first glance. Writing captures a mental abstract moment. Really excellent writers capture subtleties and leave their work open to interpretation.
Please describe your writing process.
In Purgatory, I had an outline I used which was helpful. However, as a poet, I write freely most of the time. I love writing sonnets in iambic pentameter and pantoum poems. I also enjoy stringing words together when given word prompts. Haikus are spontaneous. Honestly, I am programmed to write every day and I don’t know where some of my muses come from.
I’m not technical. I’m very right brained. I just create when I feel like it.
Some of us write our best stuff when in a rage, heartbroken or fighting depression. Are you affected in similar ways and do you use writing as a venting mechanism?
Yes, that is how Purgeatory was birthed. I was full of rage, being a new mama, without a support group or like-minded people and becoming sober. I don’t have family out here and went quasi-crazy. I went through a manic phase and could not stop writing. As someone that never dealt with issues that caused complex PTSD, I retreated back to my high school self and poured my heart into the only thing I knew that worked, writing. Luckily, I didn’t go to prison, but I was angry and this was the healthiest way I knew how to be heard. The painfully shy aspect never really went away either. Depression comes with the mania, and sometimes it was so bad, I just wanted to go to sleep. However, some of my depressive and gothic poems have been documented. As a result of my publication, one of the first random people to contact me was an ex-convict. This led me to plant a seed in working to teach prisoners yoga.
If you had the chance to perform one poem or read one excerpt of your work to someone that sums you up, which is it?
I’ve exhausted all my tears of joy into a well of love.
You’ve quenched my thirst for more knowledge; agape love.
What is this to become?
There is nothing else to “be.”
We are all parts, filling a finger in a glove.
Costumes, figurines spinning around, fueled by love.
Connected to the source; never to quell.
Eternally united, there is nothing to show or tell.
If you could collaborate with anyone out there (alive or dead), who would it be and why?
Reggie Watts, Bob Dylan. They are original spoken word artists and writers. Reggie is just so unique and spontaneous and fun and Bob is so poetic and intelligent. They both are not singers but writers who perform.I feel I would vibe with both of those guys and maybe they could teach me while collaborating.
Who are your writing influences, heroes and villains poetically, musically and/or lyrically?
Bob Dylan, Joan Didion, Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, Jim Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Sylvia Plath, David Bowie, Spiritualized, Timothy Leary (villain and hero) Ram Dass (hero). I think they were all on to something and I hope when they are reincarnated, they will all come back with a more potent message, especially those that committed suicide or died of drugs/drinking. Obviously, Ram Dass is still alive. He got it all right in one lifetime. Hero! The Dharma bums resonate with me. Sometimes I wonder if I was one in my past life. I’ve lived in excess at times and had fun, but always wrote and attempted to capture an era in my writings. Instead of the beat generation, I’m really into Generation X. You’ll see that in Purgatory and my articles published on Rebelle Society. I’m on the young side of the X, but I am a Generation X baby to the T.
What quote/song/poem inspires you the most and why?
“Exercises are like prose. whereas yoga is the poetry of movements. Once you understand the grammar of yoga, you can write your poetry movements.” -Amit Ray
As a yogi and a writer, this explains my inner world: movement and words. Cosmic Dancer feel to it huh?
Writer’s block, is it real or a myth?
It’s real, especially when the mania subsides. However, GIF’s help to catalyze the words. Sometimes I revisit old poems that I never published and reshape them with a new flare. Whatever comes out usually leads to something later. There is no such thing as a waste of time while being a writer. It’s all experience for your next piece, a part of a piece, or an emotional piece that nobody will read. Meditation really helps. Sometimes words sneak in while I’m meditating. Wow! Do I ever go in circles?
Finish this sentence… Words and music are the epitomes of…
Art without visuals. Art that makes you feel in a vibratory way, in which one’s cells vibrate and make one feel something. Maybe a connection to the writer?
What’s next for you?
Prison Yoga Project in Rochester Hills March 29-31 (long term project), My goal is to start speaking at yoga teacher trainings about knowing the benefits of trauma-informed yoga, specifically teaching to prisoners. I attend spoken Word Performances every other week. I hope to write another book within the decade. Altruism has been a major theme in my life since I started a regular yoga practice. Once I feel peaceful, who’s next? I have to work on myself and then I transmute that energy into helping others. I would like to be helping inmates write poetry, express themselves through yoga, and let them know there is a way out through the mind. Liberation is available to every human being in this lifetime.
Thanks to Brieanne for the interview. You can follow her on Twitter at @brie_kali and get more of her at all of the following:
If you would like to feature in a Writer Profile, or indeed if you would like to submit your own blog piece on writing, mental health or anything wordy; then please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org