7 Creative Questions: An Interview With Spoken Word Poet & Writer Ami Mattison

7 Creative Questions is an ongoing series of interviews with everyday creative artists.

Today’s artist is Ami Mattison, who I met through Twitter and through reading her wonderfully insightful and consistently helpful blog for writers and artists – poetryNprogress.

Ami MattisonAmi, would you like to introduce yourself and your artwork?

I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama and currently live in Detroit, Michigan. I’ve been writing since I was very young, and I’ve been performing spoken word professionally since 2002, touring around the U.S. and Canada. I freelanced for newspapers and magazines for about 8 years, but these days mostly I write and publish poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction, as well as blog articles.

Great, thanks Ami. So on with the first question if I may:

What does “being creative” mean to you?

For me, creativity is quite simply the inherent impulse and desire which resides within all of us to form something new from the bits of scratch—experiences, memories, observations—that we encounter in our daily journeys. It’s about tapping into a passionate connection with the universe, which is constantly creating and transforming our world and our lives.

Being creative isn’t something that only happens when I sit down to write. It’s a way of being and perceiving that’s infused throughout my life. How I look upwards towards the white sky of a winter day, how I stir spices into a sauce simmering on the stove, or how my body is moved by the improvisational riffs of a jazz song—these are all creative experiences. In that sense, for me, creativity is an activity, a way of being, and a way of looking at, or perceiving the world and my own place within it.

Can you describe the time when you first realised that creating was something you absolutely had to do?

Around 4 or 5, I became aware of creativity and art. I loved coloring, drawing, and most of all writing. But I also come from a family of storytellers, and the way they spoke and told stories rubbed off on me. I perceived the “art” of what they did when they told stories, recounted gossip, or reminisced. And I loved these stories, loved listening to them.

Also, singing and music had a dominant place in our household. So, early on, I came to understand intuitively that art was not simply a static thing on a page or a canvas, but something dynamic, something spoken and sung, something enacted. As a result, going from writing on the page to performing spoken word was an organic creative progression for me.

What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

Because I love my creative work so much, I go to bed at night thinking how I get to wake up and work in the morning, and as soon as I wake, I start working—sometimes, even before I make a cup of coffee. So, my creative work is an impulsive desire—an impulse towards pleasure. As a result, my creative impulses aren’t intricately linked to rituals per se, but I do have a very simple routine. I wake up, go to my desk, and I start writing. I suppose my writing desk is a kind of trigger then. The simple gesture of sitting down at my desk suggests that it’s time to create.

Also, I write in my journal first thing. I tend to write 3-4 pages in long-hand, jotting down any anxieties or random flotsam from my life as well as various thoughts on my writing and other creative projects. Writing in my journal is a daily practice which not only helps me to manage and cope with my daily living but also provides a way to flex my writing muscle in a low-pressure context.

Ami Mattison
Performing at Trans/Giving in LA. Photo courtesy of Leaf.

What’s your favourite thing you’ve ever created?

I tend to fall in love with just about everything I write or create, though my passion for my writings or other creations waxes and wanes over time.

When I recorded my spoken word CD, Strange and Potent Mixture, I was totally in love with it for its strengths as well as its flaws. Now, I hardly think of it. And when I created my self-published chapbook, Slug Mojo Poetry, again, I was in love, and over time, I fall in and out of love with that project. I suppose that’s the thing about me and the products of my creativity.

I try very hard to love each thing. If I don’t, then I abandon it. And occasionally, I find these poor abandoned poems or projects, and I think “Wow, this has so much potential! I love it!” Right now, I’m still in love with nurturing my blog, poetryNprogress. And I’m in love with several of my latest spoken word pieces and poems as well as my newest project—a blog for my creative writings which I named after my CD.

What are you trying to communicate with your art?

I can’t say that one particular message dominates my creative projects. What I’m trying to communicate depends on the piece or the project itself. But I do hope through my example that others come to understand how creativity flows naturally within them.

Through my creative work, I hope to inspire people to tap into the universal impulse to create and to transform themselves, their lives, and their worlds through that creative process.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?

On occasion, I tinker with my guitar and play around on my keyboard. While I was trained in piano as a child and teenager, I’ve lost those musical skills. So, I’d really like to pursue music in my future. I’m hoping to take guitar lessons again and to get back on the piano.

There’s so much I’d like to do musically, but I don’t have the skills and experience to create much in that realm. I’ve written songs that others have performed or written music to. And I’ve written raps and lyrics for musicians. But I want to be able to create a song—the music, the words, and its performance—all by myself. Otherwise, I’ve had to suffice with tinkering around on audio recordings of my spoken word as well as sound design pieces in which I put together samples of music, beats, and voices.

What’s the best advice you ever had about how to be more creative?

One bit of advice that the renowned poet Adrienne Rich gave me when I was in my early twenties: Write your own unique story, tell your own experiences. I’ve held onto those words as a kind of talisman through the ups and downs of my creative career—trying always to remember to value my own stories, and my own perceptions and to offer up my creativity and creative products as gifts to others.

In the end, I believe that when we value and share our own unique and inherent creativity, then we’re giving other people an opportunity to value and to share theirs.

Thanks so much Ami, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking with you. How can we find about more about you?

I welcome people to check out my blog poetryNprogress where I offer articles about writing, creativity, and “creating a life in poetry.” Also, my blog Strange and Potent Mixture features my original creative writings. My Youtube page features videos of some past spoken word performances. And folks can follow me on Facebook as well as on Twitter.


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12 thoughts on “7 Creative Questions: An Interview With Spoken Word Poet & Writer Ami Mattison”

  1. Hello Dan
    I read Ami’s poetry and love to watch her perform… Watching her reminded of what I loved doing as a child…standing in front of the mirror and ‘reciting'(my dad called it that…from the time of the British Raj) ‘Behold her single in the field, yon solitary …
    I love the questions you have asked her and have complimented her on her answers. It would be a useful read for artists who are raw and eager to hear from more experienced writers and performers.


    1. Thanks for your comments Padmavani. I agree, I hope many people read and are inspired by Ami’s words here, and by her writing and poems too. There’s plenty to be moved and motivated by.


  2. hi Dan,

    Thank you for this enlightening interview with Ami. I love the power, sincerity and magic of her work. She is such a natural ‘creator’ and I think her truth shines through brightly. What Ami says about being in love with her ‘creations’ really resonates with me. I know that feeling too of falling out of love with something and abandoning it only to rediscover it sometime later and ‘love’ it again. Sometimes I think our creativity is like a small but sturdy rowing boat trying to stay afloat amidst the wildest tempests of our emotions. The greater the storm that we manage to survive the more awesome and spiritual is the tale that we bring home! Thanks to you and Ami for this inspirational interview.


    1. Rosemary, thanks for your comments, so pleased you enjoyed the interview.

      Love that analogy – “Sometimes I think our creativity is like a small but sturdy rowing boat trying to stay afloat amidst the wildest tempests of our emotions.” – Brilliant!


  3. Ami, what a great interview! And I’m glad it led me to find Dan’s work, as well. Thanks so much for a meaty piece to take me into the weekend (and a creativity class next week!).
    ~ Lisa


  4. Fantastic to see Ami on this blog – a great synergy of creative energy! I am a huge fan of Ami’s brilliant writing and performance. She is a great example to the shy retiring types, and she has such a gorgeous voice!
    Thanks to you both for this post 🙂


    1. Glad you enjoyed the interview Joanna, “a great synergy of creative energy” is a brilliant way of describing Ami. 🙂


  5. Just wanted to thank you again, Dan, for a great interview! And thanks to Padmavani, Rosemary, Maureen, and Lisa for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts.

    Lisa, I’m so glad your enjoyed the interview and it makes me happy that the connection led you to find Dan’s fine work. Creativity seems to lead us to greater and greater connections, even social ones.


    1. Ami, you’re welcome, thank you for doing the interview.

      I definitely agree that the one of the best parts of the internet is how quickly we can find people who are in the same field as us, and can greatly inspire us. It’s levelled the playing field, everyone is accessible.

      What I particularly love is how we can support and encourage each other to flourish. There’s a strong sense of community and creative collaboration, that we’re together, it’s not competitive.


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