I am so excited to bring you the first of what I hope will be many Why We Create interviews! Generally these interviews will be posted Wednesdays, but because I was out sick yesterday, here we are on Thursday. Better late than never! 🙂
I am so excited to introduce you all to Samantha Slupski! I met Sam at a local artist group that I have the pleasure of attending. She read one of her poems the first night I was there, and I was blown away by the power and beauty of her words. I am so excited for you all to hear some of her work and find out more about her. Thank you so much for your openness and willingness to share a peek into your process and your art, Sam!
1) For those of you who are not familiar with you and your work, could you give us a glimpse of what you do and how you ended up where you are?
My name is Samantha Slupski and I am a local Kansas City spoken word poet. I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I know it’s always been a part of my emotional healing process as a human being. I spent a large part of my adolescence in mental hospitals, and in those hospitals, I found writing to be the only way I could survive. Poetry has always been my medium of choice. I prefer it because there’s so much possibility. There’s no rules you have to follow. You just write and write until it doesn’t hurt anymore.
As a spoken word performer, I first stepped on stage at Uptown Arts Bar in December of 2015. A friend of mine read my journal of poems and told me they needed to be shared with a bigger audience. So, despite my outrageous amount of anxiety, I got on stage, and now it’s all I want to do with my life. I’ve found my home.
2) Do you think creativity requires discipline? If so, what kinds of disciplines have you found helpful as your pursue your creative calling? If you could embrace one new creative discipline this year, what would it be?
Creativity absolutely requires discipline. For me, that’s half the battle. I wake up every morning and I know I need to create, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I do. There are days it takes a lot of motivation to create. Whenever I find myself in spells of low motivation, I go to the places where I find myself most creative– which just so happens to be coffee shops most of the time. If I surround myself with a comfortable and inspiring environment, then I find it a lot easier to create. It’s also nice as a writer, though, because as long as I have a pen and paper, I can create. So that’s a privilege I am very grateful for.
I think one discipline I need to embrace this year is have a larger intake of other’s art. As a writer, I have always been taught that I should read twice as much as I write. And I certainly don’t do that. So that’s one thing I really want to improve on.
3) Creativity and artistic practice can be generative for our culture (contributing to growth and betterment) or degenerative (contributing to breaking it down and weakening it). In what ways would you like to see your work be generative to the culture in which you live?
It is a constant theme is my work to uplift those who may be feeling down. Even though things hurt and there are times it is hard to keep going, I think it is important to find light in the darkest of places. I think art is a perfect example of how we do that. There is so much in our society that guides us to think we are not good enough, and that is just absolutely not true. I think art needs to be uplifting and welcoming for everyone.
It is also a main goal of mine to make sure everyone understands that they are not alone in anything they are feeling or experiencing. Everyone may not be able to relate exactly to what one is going through, but we can be there for each other, and be there is listen and try to understand to the best of our ability. Everyone deserves to feel welcome. Everyone deserves to feel loved. And it is my goal in my work that I can make that a reality.
4) What, at your deepest level, drives you to create? I have two answers to this question. The first one being the most basic reason why I feel like everyone creates – to have a better understanding of what goes on in my own brain. Whenever I write and see my world on the page, my pain feels more tangible; like something I can handle and deal with. Words on a page seem much smaller than they seem in your head, and there’s nothing more comforting to me than that.
The second half of my answer explains why I perform instead of just leave my writing strictly on paper. Whenever I was first introduced to spoken word, I was introduced to Andrea Gibson, who still remains my favorite artist of all time. She came in Lawrence, KS in January 2013 and my world was changed. I remember seeing her on stage performing her poem, The Nutritionist, and it saved my life. One of the lines in that poem read, “If all we have to gain in staying is each other, my God that is plenty, my God that is enough…” And while listening to that line is when I realized I had to stay on this earth to create. And while sobbing and basking in the excitement of being alive, I realized that one day, I want to make someone feel that way. That I could make someone realize that they are not alone in the pain they are feeling; that there is ALWAYS a reason to stay alive. And, at my deepest core, is why I do what I do.
5) What does the process of creating look like for you from start to finish/ how do you tackle a creative project?
This is something I am still very much trying to cultivate. It hasn’t been until very recently that I’ve had actual projects to complete. I just used to write whenever I felt sad, anxious, angry, happy, heartbroken, or whatever strong feeling I felt like needed to be on paper. But now, I am working on a lot of projects with specific topics in mind, so I am trying to find the best way to inspire myself when I may not be in the mood to write, but know full well that I need to. Honestly, I just start with a free-write about whatever topic and then I stencil a poem from there. That’s about as good of a process that I’ve got. I am excited to see how it will evolve for me over time.
6) How has social media influenced the way you view yourself as an artist? What do you find most helpful/most difficult about this aspect of your creative process?
Social media has become such a big tool for me. This is almost frustrating because I really wanted to reject it for so long, but I realize there are some circumstances where it can be extremely helpful. One way I have used social media to my benefit is by connecting with other artists that I would have not otherwise been in contact with. This is exciting because this opens up opportunity for collaborations, which I am very interested in. It also opens up avenues to perform in other people’s spaces, which is exciting. Social media is also very beautiful because it can make your work very accessible. The only qualm I have with social media is the over-saturation of content we are fed every day. Sometimes, there is just so much to look at, we aren’t exactly sure what to pay attention to, or what is quality content and what is not. I do think it is important for every artist to feel like they can share their creations, and I think social media is a good way for that to happen, and for that, I am grateful.
7) Do you have any routines that help you get in the rhythm of creating?
I always go to the same places when I want to create; my favorite coffee shops, parks, restaurants, and even surrounding myself with other artists help. I also have playlists that I listen to whenever I want to create.
It’s interesting because I’ll find myself being the most inspired when I’m driving, so I often open my phone up and will use my voice recognition to write in my notes (because obviously texting and driving isn’t a good idea). That’s a pretty regular thing that happens, so I guess I’d call that a routine.
8) Do you have any advice for those early on their creative journey?
Never stop. Ever. Creating is the only way some of us stay alive, and because of that, it is absolutely necessary. There are times you will be discouraged. There are times you will wonder if you are talented, and you need to know that you absolutely are. Creating is one of the most vulnerable things a human can do because we are putting our hearts and souls out on a page, a canvas or whatever other medium that is chosen. But we are putting it out there for the entire world to see, and that can be a terrifying thing. But it is also the most beautiful thing that a person can do. And because of that, I encourage anyone who has ever thought about creating to just do it. You’ll never be more happier once you do. I promise.
9) Where can we look forward to seeing you next? Are you working on any exciting projects?
I’ve got a lot of things coming up, which is super exciting and overwhelming (in the best way)! I am writing a book with another local KC poet, August Kind, and we are expecting to have that done by the end of the summer. A little teaser: the title of the book is Falling, Fall Out, Repeat. So keep an eye out for that, and possibly another book sometime in the fall/winter. That’s my plan, anyway. You can find me every third Wednesday at Uptown Arts Bar where I host an open mic called ‘Clandestine Poetry.’ I’ve also been working with Paper Birch Landing to perform at some of their gallery openings. I’m sure I’ll have more coming up, but as of right now, that’s all I’ve got!
Where to find Samantha:
Here is the link to the open mic that I host: https://www.facebook.com/clandestinepoetry
See the beginning of the interview to watch a video of Sam performing one of her poems.
Thank you for reading this interview from the Why We Create project. If you are interested in reading more about the project or would like to be interviewed, click here. You can follow along on Instagram at @whywecreate and use the hashtag #whywecreate for a feature.