Hayden Tran Interviews Poet Natasha Dennerstain ahead of the next installment of the Last Supper Party with Karla Brundage and Clyde Leland on Saturday November 5.
Natasha Dennerstein Interview
Being from Australia, Natasha had to acclimate herself to the Californian environment, and she did so through her work. “I published here in the Bay Area and it was called Triptych California, and it was in three segments. One was Cinema, the other was on sexualities, and one was really about the Californian kind of experience, the way people in California conduct their
When I asked her what the importance of poetry is and why students should take the time to learn it, she took a moment to think and brought up Amanda Gorman, the young girl who performed a poem at President Biden’s inauguration. “She’s fantastic, listen to what she’s saying, you know, and listen to her confidence and she’s got the biggest platform in the world for her poetry. The eyes of the whole world were on this little girl. Why? Because she’s a good poet. Poetry really exercises a different part of the brain and gets you thinking in different ways, and you can say a lot in a very short space.” She likened poetry to a painting that’s being encapsulated, a frozen image, a story told with rhythm or rhyme.
While working as a psychiatric nurse, Natasha found some inspiration from her occupation to use for her work. “I have people in my poetry that are psychotic, I wrote a book about Eileen Wuornos, a serial killer who murdered men in Florida and I tried to get behind her motives and in her mind with the poems, I tried to write them in her voice as I imagined. I think I’m interested in the darker aspects of the human condition. Some people think that poetry is supposed to be elevated and talk about elevated things but I am a firm believer that poetry can be rooted in the real world.
Natasha Dennerstein has covered an abundance of topics ranging from California life to the mind of a serial killer. Natasha will be performing some of her poetry at The Last Supper Party on November 5th, and since her subjects range from California lifestyles to the mind of serial killers, it’s sure to be a great performance.
Karla Brundage Q&A
How does being born in the Bay Area affect your work?
Living in the Bay Area I feel supported as a creative and an Artist. Home of the Black Panther Party, the revolutionary spirit of Oakland and the ancestors here allows for powerful words and ideas to be shared in the realm o creativity here. Also I am inspired by the works of Ishmael Reed who has mentored me and encouraged me along my path to speak my truth without fear. There are many powerful Black Women here in Oakland who have also nurtured the spirit of Poetic Protest such as Wanda Sabir, Devorah Major, Ntozake Shange and so many others.
Since you grew up in Hawaii and it played into your love of nature, how have you implemented it into your work?
My earlier work, especially love poems, utilized the imagery of nature. However currently I see the violence in society as so out of balance that my work new feels disjointed and removed from nature was well. In the early 90's I used to spend weekend cleaning up the streets in West Oakland where I lived with some local artists. We produced "Earth Peace" in which an all Black cast performed poems on our various relationships and disjointedness from nature.
Describe how art is important to society
I think this is an impossible task. Art is history, beauty, expression, and imagination. It is everything.
What motivates you to create? What's the purpose or goal of your work?
There two are one and the same for me. Most of the time I am motivated by an inner force that seems to well up inside of me. This can happen when faced with a strong emotion, including sadness. My first poems were about my mixed race identity and the struggle I had being understood. I used art to try to be understood and in doing so, as in a mirror, better understand others. However, as I came to more self acceptance, I saw writing as a healing tool and wanted to share that. Sometimes I just want to share a laugh or a political statement, but usually the goal of my work is to look at what is underneath and to see for both truth and understanding especially concerning mysteries such as self-hatred, violence, greed, and other areas of strife. I also have lived with epilepsy since I was 12 and have had numerous near death experiences which I believe helped me have some perspective on life earlier on.