Mount Island’s Village Voices is a new series of bite-sized interviews featuring diverse rural artists. If you’re interested in being featured, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deidra K. Razzaque is an artist, writer, workshop leader, trainer, and intercultural coach living in southern Vermont. She is passionate about creating opportunities to increase intercultural connection and understanding, fostering the idea that each of us can be conduits and catalysts for positive change, and uncovering and sharing beauty. To learn more about Deidra and her work, visit http://www.athomeintheworld.us/.
What are you digging right now in terms of music, movies, new shows, books?
I’m usually reading more than one thing at once. Right now, I miss the world, so I am reading Monisha Rajesh’s Around the World in 80 Trains. Trains are my favorite way to travel—I love the rhythm of them. This book is soothing something in me. I’ve also been rereading an old favorite, Bill Moyer’s The Language of Life: A Festival of Poets. It’s a combination of poems and interviews with the poets. Even after reading this many times, I am still discovering new ways of seeing and thinking.
I’ve been listening to all kinds of music. When I cook, I listen to Lila Ike’s soulful reggae. I recently discovered The Wong Janice’s “cello journeys,” as she calls them, which helps me focus and feel grounded while I’m working. Jesse and Joy’s album Con Quien Se Queda El Perro? often accompanies me while I walk the track. I’ve also been connecting with my kids through music. Wallows, Brockhampton, and Lana Del Rey with my daughter. And the other day, my son wanted me to listen to NF’s haunting song about the loss of his mother, “How Could You Leave Us.” I can’t get it out of my head.
Tell us a story about one of the first times you took up your practice as a writer, artist, dancer, etc.—the first time you put pen to page, brush to canvas. If you work in different mediums, what came first?
As a child, I often felt out of place in my life. Books showed me that there were many ways to live, and I wanted to write so that I could create other ways of living for myself. The fact that writing could be easily and safely hidden felt vital to me. I first remember writing small poems while keeping a diary. As I wrote, though, I began to feel connected to God or spirit—something beyond myself and my experience. By the time I was in, maybe 4th grade, poems started to come to me almost fully formed, like I was channeling them. They came to me that way for years.
I also loved visual art as a child, but I rarely wanted to make it myself. I felt like my creative life would not be understood or appreciated by those around me. I kept it hidden because I did not want anyone to see it, comment, or try to interpret it.
I always thought of myself as witnessing what was happening around me through my creative work. But in the beginning, anything I made was for me.
How does living in a rural place or a connection to a rural place impact how and what you create?
Living in a small town allows me to notice more. Because there are fewer distractions, I can tune in to what’s happening, both within me and around me. Also, there’s a tremendous amount of creativity in my town. I used to live in Central America, which is brighter and obvious. Vermont is more subdued on the surface.
Creativity here begins with the abundance of nature in every season, and it shows up in people in so many ways. Not only are there myriad artists, writers, and musicians, but there are also people who bake astonishing things, create unusual events, and think about the world in dynamic ways. And the creativity keeps flowing here. It’s never stagnant. We’re cradled by two rivers—maybe that’s why.
COVID-19 has affected everyone in the world in different ways. What are your thoughts about this moment and what it could mean for other creatives and artists? What has been the impact on your creative flow?
In this unprecedented time of uncertainty and unrest, I think artists can help people share what sometimes feels unshareable, and bear what is with grace. Right now, people have so many different physical and emotional needs. Artists and creatives have the ability to witness those voices and needs in beneficial ways. We can use our work to create spaces of ease and renewal, and build bridges that take people beyond fear and anxiety.
I have been doing a lot of witnessing, supporting, and processing since schools closed in March. A lot of my creativity in the past few months has gone into supporting family and friends, and shifting things in my day job—I’ve created several new online and virtual classes for kin, foster, and adoptive families.
Now I’m feeling like, even though COVID-19 is still happening, we are all learning ways to cope, my kids are okay, and we have gained skills and perspective from this experience so far. I am ready to take what has been gestating within me and create more of my own work.
Imagine you must write a note in a bottle and send it to another rural artist living all alone on some desert island berry patch? What would you want to say to them?
Thank you for being here. You are not alone. Your work transforms lives, even when no one sees it. Remember: When you make what you are called to make, the energy and vibration of the world shifts for the better. Keep shining your light.