In conversation with Karunesh Kumar Agrawal, Managing Editor, Cyberwit.net, Ann Christine Tabaka tells us about her success as an international poet.
Karunesh Kumar Agrawal: Tell us about you and your background.
Christine Tabaka: I had a difficult childhood, and I will leave that part of it at that. I was an art major in College, but left school and worked for a chemical company.. I worked my way up from lab technician to Senior Research Scientist over the course of my employment. I have always kept a journal of rhymes and musings. I started writing at 14 years old. I only decided to go public with my work in early 2017 when friends encouraged me to do so. The rest is history.
Karunesh Kumar Agrawal: What inspires you to write poetry?
Christine Tabaka: When I was a teenager, it was the usual angst, love, loss, etc. As I got older, I started to fall in love with nature, emotions, and words. I write because I have to. I believe most poets and writers will say the same – we write because we have to.
Karunesh Kumar Agrawal: When did you start writing poetry?
Christine Tabaka: In 9th grade when I was 14. Our school had an annual magazine that everyone could contribute to – art, stories, comics, poetry, etc. It was 1965 and the Vietnam war was on most of our minds with family and loved ones being drafted daily. My first poem was “The Young Soldier” about a soldier being away from home at Christmas time. After that, I wrote sporadically as the feeling hit me.
Karunesh Kumar Agrawal: What is the measure of success as a poet?
Christine Tabaka: I am not sure that I would call myself a success. Since I started sharing my words with the world, two years ago, I have self-published 6 poetry books (two are Haiku & Senryu), and had my work accepted in hundreds of publications all over the world, but I still get more than my share of rejection letters. I was thrilled to have one of my poems nominated for the Push Cart Poetry prize in 2017, that is probably the biggest feather in my cap.
Karunesh Kumar Agrawal: What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Christine Tabaka: I cannot speak for all writers, but valuing/comparing my work against the success of others, and giving up when hitting a dry spell are the hardest things for me. When I stop writing, I find it hard to start again, then I panic thinking that I have lost it. I find it important to write something – anything, every day, even if it is just one line. I can always come back to it if it is worth working on later.
Karunesh Kumar Agrawal: Which contemporary poets do you personally believe will be remembered in the coming years and why?
Christine Tabaka: My favourite poet is Leonard Cohen – poet, song writer, and singer. He spoke to the present generation in words that will be long remembered.
Karunesh Kumar Agrawal: Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?
Christine Tabaka: Definitely – I always wrote a few free verse poems – more musings than poems back then, but I always felt that poems had to rhyme and be in four line stanzas when I began. I have experimented in all sorts of poetry in the past two years. I now see poetry as a means to tell a complete story in a few words as possible.
Karunesh Kumar Agrawal: Your poems are based on your personal experience or other things such as facts?
Christine Tabaka: Many are personal experience, and feelings, but I also write about things that I have read about, or heard from others. Sometimes when I write a poem about a disaster or breakup and my readers start to tell me that they are sorry for my experience, I have to remind them that “Sometimes a poem is just a poem.”
Karunesh Kumar Agrawal: Are you on Facebook or Twitter? Does it fit into your poetry, and if so, how?
Christine Tabaka: I am on Facebook – that is actually how I got my start with going public. I have recently joined Twitter and Instagram, but do not have much of a following since I don’t post every single day. I want to save many of my poems to submit to publications, so I need to keep them off of Social Media for that.
Karunesh Kumar Agrawal: Everlasting: A Lifetime of Poems features many good poems. I want to know which one is your best and why?
Christine Tabaka: Thank you for your complement. Interesting, it is hard for me to say which poem is my best, since many of my personal favourites aren’t the ones that get the most recognition. Two of my favourites are “Wash Me Clean,” and of course the title poem “Everlasting.” I can’t really say why, I just was happy with them when I wrote them.
Karunesh Kumar Agrawal: What is your motivation for writing more?
Christine Tabaka: I just feel a need to share my words with the world. I am not arrogant enough to believe that my words are more important or more beautiful than other poets’ words, but my words define who I am. My words are my small piece of immortality.
Karunesh Kumar Agrawal: Thank you very much.
Christine Tabaka: Thank you so much for contacting me. I am honoured!