Shayla Lawson, 1001 Interviews No. 15

Shayla Lawson (shaylalawson.com) is the author of the chapbook PANTONE (Miel Books, 2016) and the forthcoming I Think I’m Ready to See Frank Ocean (Saturnalia Books, 2018). She has written for SalonESPNGuernica, and The Offing.

Tyler Sowa interviewed Shayla. Tyler Sowa is an Oregon native. He is a writer concerned with varying aspects of the house, home, and the domestic. He is currently at work on a chapbook titled The Anti-Depressant Waiting Room Rules.
TYLER
What do you feel like people can take away from ‘Pantone’ other than your personal experience with how you perceive color?

SHAYLA

I think PANTONE is less about how I perceive color and more about vignettes inspired by the idea of what colors would say if they could speak to me.  Of course, certain colors speak to my personal experience, but a lot of the prose poems are based on the ways I’ve observed colors manifest themselves as a central character in a variety of stories.

TYLER

Do you find yourself curious on how others see the world?

SHAYLA

I’m curious about how others “see” the world in a physical or phenomenological standpoint, and generally curious about “the world.”

TYLER

Your poetry moves swiftly through form and medium and lands in many places. With Pantone, you’ve coupled poetry with both scent and color. How does your writing typically evolve to reach so far from the page?

SHAYLA

I thought of writing each poem in PANTONE as a way of curating a room for each color.  Part of that process involves evoking scent and sound as part of the experience.

TYLER

Can you recall your first introduction with poetry? Which poets inspired and lifted you into writing poetry of your own?

SHAYLA

My parents kept a lot of poetry in the house.   I remember reciting poems as early as four.  The first poem that probably solidified my future as a writer was probably from high school, “Cotton Candy on Rainy Day” by Nikki Giovanni.  I still recite portions of “The Love Song of J.  Alfred Prufock” by T.S.  Eliot, especially in the shower.

TYLER

As a relevant follow-up, how has Frank Ocean inspired you as an artist? Much of your own work conflates music and poetry, in your opinion, do you think music helps to extend poetry’s reach?

SHAYLA

I Think I’m Ready to See Frank Ocean is a collection I’ve been working on coming out in 2018.  Like PANTONE, I tend to work on poetry collections that are projects.  I’ll ask myself a question (e.g.  What would it be like if colors could speak to you?) and use poetry to answer it.

I’ll use any vehicle I need to tell a story.   I think I’m less interested in conflating poetry and music (or poetry and color) than I am in making sure I stay authentic to the source material I set out to explore.   Frank Ocean is a musician, so I sing the songs that inspired my poems when I perform them.  PANTONE® is a company that reimagined how we responded to color; the chapbook mirrors the experience of searching for a color using the Pantone system by being distributed as a set of cards as opposed to a bound book.

TYLER

Your poem “Float Like a Butterfly” on ESPNW is incredible! I never thought I would see poetry intersect with the sports page, yet after reading this piece it seems so fitting. Who do you find is your ideal audience?

SHAYLA

Thank you.  My ideal is to do my best to chronicle the world in a way that is respectful and thoughtful.   Whomever that appeals to, I’m happy to reach.

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