Interview with Contemporary American Poet D.L. Lang
D.L. Lang is the author of 13 poetry books, most recently This Festival of Dreams. She served as poet laureate of Vallejo, California from 2017 to 2019, performing hundreds of times across California at county fairs, literary events, and political demonstrations. She has been published in dozens of anthologies worldwide. Her poems have been transformed into songs, Jewish liturgy, and used to advocate for peace and justice. She can be found online at poetryebook.com
Hello D.L. Lang, Welcome to WorldAuthors.Org! What was it like being a poet laureate?
It was a whirlwind. I had never been so busy with poetry in my life as I was in the two and a half years that I served as Vallejo, California’s poet laureate. The main purpose of a laureate in my opinion is not to shine a spotlight on yourself, although that is a side effect, but to encourage others, flaming the fire on their poetic dreams, and essentially, out of those people, a fine crop of future poets laureate shall arise.
What is your latest project?
I am in the final editing phase for my 14th poetry collection entitled Heaven is Portable. It will be one of my largest collections, finishing off at around 200 pages. It is my usual mix of autobiographical, topical, spiritual, travel, and nature poetry.
Do writing and performing energize or exhaust you?
Writing brings me a sense of inner peace. I started out writing poetry as a way to process emotions as a child, and I generally end up feeling calmer after I turn a life experience into poetry. Performing energizes me, however, especially if my work is well-received. Many nights it takes me hours after a performance before I can fall asleep because I feel so much joy. Touring around too much, however, can be exhausting.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
I do. I find writing to be a form of meditation and a way to clear my mind. I often write poetry with a spiritual perspective as well. My most sincere prayers are often expressed in my poetry. If you’d like some examples of this I’d encourage you to check out my book Paradise Collectors: A Book of Jewish Poetry. I also wouldn’t be where I am at today were it not for my synagogue community having encouraged my creativity long before the rest of the world was exposed to it.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I am blessed to live in the San Francisco bay area where I am surrounded by numerous poets and spoken word artists, many of whom are more experienced than me and it is such an encouraging community of writers cheering each other on for every little success. That encouragement fuels a desire to keep writing and growing as an author and performer.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t listen to the people who tell you that you won’t make it. Sure, there isn’t a lot of money in poetry, but that is no excuse not to put yourself out there and practice your craft.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I’ve experienced both sides of the power of language. I was not well liked growing up and felt the sting of harsh words from my classmates and neighborhood kids. On the flip side, the first time I performed my poetry to a live audience at my synagogue, I was stunned by the cheering and positive response. So much so that I continue to perform my work to this day. I think performing is one of the most important aspects of being a poet for me.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
Lately, I’ve become an avid bird watcher. I go out on hikes and photograph the diverse wildlife here in California. Like poetry this also brings me a sense of inner peace.