Danielle Allen is poet who uses spoken word to decolonise the imagination. She experiments with the way a combination of moving images, words and language can be used to tell stories that are raw and stripped back. “We spew hurricane into language and laugh at the howling” might be the most powerful line of poetry we’ve ever heard. Have a listen to ‘Woman and Wolf’ below.
How would you describe your poetry?
I would describe my poetry as heart and soul full. My creative process differs: sometimes the whole poem just come to me at once, other times I just make random notes on my phone and see if it can turn into a poem. I like going outdoors in nature to write as well. It just depends, I try not to force it and just let the words come when they’re ready.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I love when a poem comes to me by inspiration, I feel like it’s not mine, that I don’t have ownership of it, which makes it easier to share it and not feel judged.
Is there a hidden meaning in any of your poetry?
Yes I use to have a lot of metaphors etc to try and disguise what I was talking about because I was too scared to share what I actually meant. But now, I would say it’s the opposite, I’m trying to tell my truth, by striping back and just being radically honest in my poems.
Who are you inspired by?
Anyone who bares their soul through their art. Poets like Aja Monet (listen below), Jamila Woods, Safia Elhillo. Musicians like Eryn Allen Kane, Ravenna Aurora. Old school live performance of Whitney Houston, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, I am inspired by their artistry and how they connected to their audiences.
Tell me about your favourite performance venues.
I really like theatre venues like Ovalhouse and Arcola. I also love intimate, cute little venues like Quaker Street cafe. Also Box Park Shoreditch which is home to one of my favourite poetry nights: ‘BoxedIn’. Any space that feels welcoming and where I can watch a performance (or perform) and fully immerse myself in it.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Trust your instincts always.
Also have integrity in your art. You are allowed to say no to anything that doesn’t align with your values.
Make friends with other creatives, you can vibe off each other and support each other – also it’s less lonely knowing someone going through the same thing as you.
Flow, the opportunities will come.
And finally something I’ve recently started doing, is making sure that the events I take part in are decolonised/diverse performance spaces.
See Danielle Allen at Beaconsfield Gallery as part of their evening Spirit_Off on the Saturday night of the festival, 21:00.