To end year 2020, poets shared their words at First Friday Open Mic by ZOOM on December 4.  

The poets who performed were Anke Hodenpijl, Carla Martin, Chris Nielsen, Eric Osborne, Mandy Wallace, Portia Choi, Suzanne Weller and Thomas Brill.  Listening to these poets was Irene Sinopole. 

The poet who was interviewed was Anke Hodenpijl

Interview with Anke Hodenpijl, 

By Carla Martin

Here is the poem Anke shared with us that evening:

Talking to Privilege

By Anke Hodenpijl

Oh, privilege, I should not wear you
like a favorite sweater,
hanging on the brass hook at the door,
ready for the next chill,
seeking easy comfort.

I should heed your
frayed seams and shabby demeanor;
toss you into the trash
naive threads, thick with benighted yarns,
a graceless fashion, unworthy.

You think I did not try to scrub the stains
spun into your fabric?
You, a hand-me-down,
hanging on the clothesline of fragility,
before I was born.

I need
to disinherit 
your sympathy,
your deception, 
your delusions. 

I am
no longer 
your silver-haired poser.

You can not have
my body
to carry your story
any longer.

Q. What inspired you to write your poem?  What is its back story?

A.  I wrote ‘Talking to Privilege’ in response to the unjust violence inflicted on Americans born with dark skin. The summer of 2020 called on a new kind of hero to carry the torch for America. As the coronavirus spread worldwide, I saw fellow human beings dying in our streets while being choked to death by our police. I could not march with the protestors, but I could march with my words and poems. I wanted to support my fellow Americans who still do not receive an equal measure of justice in education, medical services, job equity, and policing services. I was inspired to write this particular poem (for the anthology, ENOUGH, “Say Their Names…” Messages from Ground Zero to the WORLD) as a promise and a possibility for those of us who struggle to remain woke amid hidden agendas and systemic racism.  

Q.  You recently had many poems published in ENOUGH, “Say Their Names…” Messages from Ground Zero to the WORLD.  Could you describe to us your part in the process of putting that amazing book together? 

A.  I was fortunate enough to have twelve poems selected for the anthology. Each required my educating myself about the plight of the African Americans and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Sure, I was sympathetic but truthfully never educated. I was horrified to learn the specifics of how history was misrepresented and ignored. My heart bled. I felt ashamed to be so naive. How could I be this out of touch? How could I be this ignorant? I educated myself, talked with my friends and family, and began to write. The process was an arduous task of digging into my soul and admitting I was complicit. Recognizing this complicity was the breakthrough moment for me as a poet. I suddenly found the freedom to write authentically.

Q.   Do you like to read poetry?  If you do, what poets have influenced you?  Who have messages you connect with, or styles you admire?

A.  Reading other poets and attending Black Lives Matter Poetry Slams were part of my process. But actually, I read poetry as part of my daily writing practice. I like to think poetry mirrors my personality in that it is layered in metaphor, is artistic, is concise, and to the point. My favorite poets are Marie Howe, Gwendolyn Brooks, Jericho Brown, Ellen Bass, Ilya Kaminsky, and Mary Oliver. All these poets reflect on life from the margins and support social justice issues. I admire their use of metaphor, word placement, and connection to the human soul.


Q.  What advice would you give to other folks wanting to create poems?  How do you make a poem?  Do you have a special place you go to, or music you listen to, etc.?  Give us a glimpse into your creative process.

A.  I always recommend writers include reading as part of their poetry writing practice. Writing well is all about practice, practice, practice – write, write, write – read, read, read.

Creating a piece involves an actual release of ego, because as Ellen Bass likes to say, “We are in service of the poem.” Let the poem guide you. Take it slow. Let the story unfold. Be patient. 

I like to write in my studio at home. Sometimes I use a pencil, sometimes a pen and other times my computer. If I am stuck, I start to read one of my favorite poets, go for a walk or garden. Writing is still going on in my head; it just hasn’t found its way to my fingers yet.