HP Poet: Melanii
Question 1: We welcome you to the HP Spotlight, Melanii. Please tell us about your background?
Melanii: "My real name is Arianna. I was born and raised around Dallas, TX and am currently still living here. As it relates to writing, my background draws heavily from exposure to the arts as a child and the fascination, I guess, for beauty that this instilled. My parents (but especially my dad) were enthusiastic about music, art, history, literature, and the sciences, and my interest in all of these topics was piqued by association. Growing up I can recall countless visits to the local art museum, watching documentaries in the evenings after school, attending operas with my parents, and running home after school in the early days of each month to see if the latest issue of National Geographic had arrived so I could soak up the pictures and get lost daydreaming of faraway lands and peoples.
With time these influences grew into a general interest in the humanities. I attended the University of North Texas in Denton from 2014-2017 and studied anthropology, French, and Russian after doing a 180 on my initial intention of studying and pursuing psychology as a career path at a different school. At the time it felt kind of reckless, but in hindsight it was definitely the right decision.
After graduating, I was working as a barista and somewhere along the way ended up going to Prague for a month in the summer of 2018 to do a TEFL certification, fell into poetry that fall, and then returned to Prague for 11 months in 2019 to teach English. It was very much the best and the worst of times: I met some amazing people while there, took the opportunity to travel around a bit, and lived and learned from a horrendous relationship that also transpired during that year. I definitely went into that experience without any clear objectives or expectations; looking back, life definitely took that complacency and turned the tables with it, and while it took several years afterwards for the dust to fully settle, I've made it out the other side stronger, more intentional, and more assertive than before.
Since then, life has really just been what it's been. There have been ups and downs, of course, but the lows don't hit as hard anymore. Right now, there's not much to report and I plan to keep it that way. It's nice. Peaceful. It's a new year, and with it I will continue to focus on working, saving money, making a dent in the hydra that my reading list has become, and overall just living well and building towards the future."
Question 2: How long have you been writing poetry, and for how long have you been a member of Hello Poetry?
Melanii: "As a teenager I’d scribble fragments of poems here and there, but never considered writing to be a hobby. That all changed around September 2018 when, for whatever reason, I decided that I enjoyed writing and wanted to dedicate more time to it. As mentioned in Question #2, this was right around the time I was preparing to relocate to Prague. It's kind of hard to describe; maybe it was just the excitement of the unknown, but that whole period of time had a sense of magic and beauty about the way it was unfolding which the “discovery” of poetry as a creative outlet only elevated."
Question 3: What inspires you? (In other words, how does poetry happen for you).
Melanii: "At first, it seemed like “there was inspiration around every corner”, to quote another poet I read here on HP one time (can't remember who it was or the title of the piece, but they were describing how great poets like Bukowski seemed to find inspiration so effortlessly, and the way they phrased it has stuck with me). Fast forward five years to today, and while I don't write as prolifically anymore the words come when I have something to say.
Inspiration comes from many sources for me: music, art, and nature; random thoughts, feelings, ideas, and observations; the works of other poets; travel when it happens; disappointments in family and other relationships; loneliness…
As far as the actual writing process goes, it's pretty random. More often than not, I'd say the poems write themselves and I just jot them down once they're ready, or as they evolve and refine themselves to fruition. Not the most thoughtful approach, but it comes from the heart."
Question 4: What does poetry mean to you?
Melanii: "To me, poetry is a language — specifically a language of consciousness in its purest, most elemental form. Poetry has the ability of transcending and even defying the typical rules of language without losing cogency, and for me it's this inherent flexibility that makes it at once so unique and so impactful as an art form."
Question 5: Who are your favorite poets?
Melanii: "Federico García Lorca, Li Qingzhao, and Pablo Neruda are the top 3 names that come to mind. I enjoy the unique way that each one of them uses language and imagery to illustrate the pieces of their lives and humanity which they decided to share through their writing. There's an element of surrealism, sensuality, and expansiveness running through each of their writing styles that speaks to me in the way it encompasses the beauty and complexity of life's possibilities across good and bad times alike."
Question 6: What other interests do you have?
Melanii: "I enjoy traveling and would love to be in a place someday where I can do so more often. The urge to explore again has been gnawing at me recently, so after a little bit of research and number crunching, I renewed my passport and booked a flight to Peru for three weeks in March. I had promised myself to visit a new region the next time I traveled, and despite growing up in Texas I have yet to visit Latin America. The plan is to start in Cusco, sightsee there, then head south into Bolivia to tour the Salar de Uyuni, which has been on my bucket list since learning of its existence from National Geographic. I couldn't believe that a place like that was real, and words cannot express how excited I am to finally experience the landscape in person! With March marking the beginning of the end of the rainy season, I'm hoping to still catch some of the “mirror” effect that the salt flats are so famous for. After touring the flats, the plan is to take an overnight bus back to La Paz before heading north again towards Lima with some sightseeing stops along the way and a few days left over in the city before flying back home. So we'll see what happens!
Languages are a long standing interest as well. I studied French for 7 years between high school and college, and Russian for the 3 years I spent at university. Since graduating, I've kept up with both through podcasts, YouTube videos, news articles, and music, and despite being far from fluent in either it's helped a lot with retention and comprehension. Learning ancient Greek has also been an on-and-off endeavor since 2017 after reading Euripides’ plays and deciding that I'd like to read Medea in its original text someday. Time will tell if that ever happens, but I did recently complete an online introductory course to the language which was a nice memory refresher and helped with unpacking some of the grammatical concepts that threw me for a loop back when I first started and which are part of the reason I fell away from Greek in the first place. After Greek, I would like to learn some Coptic, Farsi, and Turkish, and would be satisfied with learning to read at least one sentence in Mandarin in my lifetime.
Outside of travel and languages, I enjoy researching and cooking dishes from various cuisines, reading, taking walks, trying out different exercise classes on days off (recently I've done tai chi, pilates, barre, aerial silks, and kickboxing, but in the past I've tried pole fitness, archery, aerial silks, cycling, and horseback riding), visiting art museums, dropping by the symphony or opera once in a blue moon, and watching videos and documentaries on philosophy, history, theology (not religious, though, just curious), and science."
Carlo C. Gomez: “Thank you so much for giving us an opportunity to get to know the person behind the poet, Melanii! We have loved adding you to this series!”
Melanii: "Thank you so much for having me and for all your efforts conducting this series of interviews! It's truly a pleasure having the opportunity to break the ice and learn more about our fellow poets."
Thank you everyone here at HP for taking the time to read this. We hope you enjoyed getting to know Melanii little bit better. I indeed did. It is our wish that these spotlights are helping everyone to further discover and appreciate their fellow poets. – Carlo C. Gomez
We will post Spotlight #12 in February!