Anastacia Renée gives powerful performance at Prairie Lights poetry reading

Seattle poet brought her unique identity and perspective to the tenth annual Iowa City Book Festival.


David Harmantas

Prairie Lights bookstore on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017.

Adrian Enzastiga, Arts Reporter

Every word is spoken with care, thought, and purpose. Every word is delivered with unwavering confidence, fueled by raw emotion. Poetry allows for a unique channeling of feelings and beliefs, sending a message that is rich and powerful.

As part of the 10th-annual Iowa City Book Festival, Anastacia-Renée, along with poets Jan Gregory and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, gave a poetry reading at Prairie Lights on Oct. 2. Anastacia-Renée read from two of her books of poetry.

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There are two UNESCO Cities of Literature in the United States: Iowa City and Seattle. Anastacia-Renée resides in the latter as the city’s Civic Poet and a former Poet-in-Residence at the Richard Hugo House.

“Everywhere I go there are writers, and I don’t find that when I’m visiting other places,” she said. “[Seattle] is a city full of writers and creative types.”

She said she has been writing since the age of 12, growing up in Kansas City, Missouri. She started out by writing a journal and editorial essays.

“I realized I couldn’t stop,” Anastacia-Renée said. “I mainly knew I was a writer because it wasn’t a hobby for me, it was a necessity.”

She said she prides herself in that she brings an identity and a type of work that most people aren’t used to.

“Unfortunately, our literature and writing community is still not as balanced in terms of representing marginalized voices. I am a queer woman of color who also has children, who is living with racism in America,” she said. “Just walking into a room, I bring something different. Look at our world, we have a president who hates me. Luckily, that doesn’t stop me from writing.”

Renée shared more than just a poem; she gave a performance. Her character and emotion could be felt, not only through her words, but her voice and face as well.

“It takes talent to express what you feel and what you see in creative ways,” she said. “Poetry and creative writing can serve as a great entertainment tool while talking about subjects that people need to think about.”

Anastacia-Renée implemented themes of race and sexuality in the poems she read. She didn’t bother censoring her words or her thoughts; the intent behind her poems was clear.

“The way to get out of our heads is to share with other people, and writing can serve as a great vehicle for change,” she said. “Sometimes, people don’t realize something until they hear a poem.”

Anastacia-Renée was able to captivate the entire audience. Prairie Lights was silent, save for the small sounds of coffee grinders and tapping feet. It was if she had sucked all the sound out of the world and the only voice left was hers.

“Writing has been a part of my physical and emotional survival,” Anastacia-Renée said. “It’s something that I had to; it wasn’t something that I wanted to do.”