Bending Genres Q & A with Dominique Christina by BG Editor David McNicholas

by | Feb 2, 2024 | Bending Genres, Bending Genres Presents, Interview

Dominique Christina is a prolific artist. Last month she taught a weekend workshop on writing allegory at Bending Genres. I was lucky enough to attend, where I found myself generating writing from places I couldn’t anticipate. I wanted to share Dominique’s inspiring words with the rest of the Bending Genres family. So, I reached out to her for an interview. I also wanted to give back to Dominique some of that feeling of having inspiration drawn out from a deep place. Dominique responded graciously and offered the following:

David John Baer McNicholas: Hi Dominique, thanks for making the time to talk with the Bending Genres family some more. I’ll jump right in with some questions. I’m curious, one creative to another, what is your process around sleep? For instance, what are your protocols for the last hour before bedtime? What kinds of dreams do you have? Or what was the first thing you thought of when you woke up this morning?

Dominique Christina: I was plagued with perpetual nightmares for years. Seriously. It went on for decades. I was the scratching post for the ghost of my stepfather for a long time. But not anymore. I travel in my dreams now. I only go where I choose. I visit places from my childhood most frequently. Places that seem to help me answer the “who am I?” question. The Park Hill neighborhood in Northeast Denver. City Park for jazz and car shows and cookouts. Blessed Sacrament Catholic School. Sister Ellen Kerr’s office specifically. The principal. I spent a lot of time there. I acted out my bruises as a kid with outbursts and willful rebellion. I kept my secrets, and I also didn’t.  I was telling on myself the whole time. Shrieking. Raging. In need of a tourniquet. Never asking for help or pointing to where it hurt though. It hurt all over anyway. But in my dreams, I’m a little girl again and I’m repairing what I can. Taking her to the places that made her. Telling her she’s safe. That’s what my dreams look like. They look like reclamation…same as my waking life. I end most nights unpacking the day with my intimate partner. We laugh loudly and often. It’s a holy place. 

DJBM: What do you remember about the place/time where you grew up? Have you been back there recently? How has it changed?

DC: I grew up in a middle class predominantly black neighborhood in Denver, Colorado. I got my period in the 80’s when Farah Fawcett was who all the boys had crushes on, and Ronald Reagan was president. I remember Michael Jackson blowing my mind. I remember my mama crying while sitting at the piano playing Moonlight Sonata when Marvin Gaye was killed by his father. And I remember thinking as kid, well yes. Fathers can do horrible things. They can abandon you. And then be replaced by someone who will harm you terribly. I remember my first kiss and how I wore eyeliner after that. I remember the kids I played with who were murdered. By a parent. By a stranger. By a kid in a gang. I went to a lot of funerals for children who died but should not have died. I remember the choirs I sang in. I remember my grandmother’s watchful eye and strict rules. I remember my grandfather’s beautiful, epic, nurturing masculinity. I remember how safe I felt. And I remember how unsafe I felt. I remember black people proudly and meticulously caring for their homes. I remember the funerals the weddings the parties the cookouts the track meets the underage drinking in Crestmoor Park the men who abused their wives and the kids who shouldered the weight. I remember all of it. And feel very grateful. 

DJBM: I listened/read some of the other interviews you have given, and several things resonated with me. Among them, the concept of being whole. It really hits home for me. Would you like to expand on the idea of wholeness vs fragmentation for our readers?

DC: Well, I know I want to get as much of my crazy done as possible before I get off this planet. I don’t want any of it to travel with me when I go. I don’t really know how it works, admittedly. But my relationships with the dead are active and visceral so I have to assume I’ll stick around to snoop, and I can’t imagine bringing my sensory-based bullshit with me to the ancestral realm, so I am doing the work to integrate my shadows rather than disavow or deny. I lean into my understanding of Jungian psychology and recognize how important it is to own every part of myself…even the parts that are perhaps difficult to celebrate. The unblessed parts of who I am or have been. I grew a lot of terrible shit in my stepfather’s house in the basement…in the dark. I did. I can name it now. Freely. With zero shame or fear. But when I was a kid, I was almost paralyzed by a fear that people would somehow discover how “damaged” I was and love me less…or something. I was out of integrity all the time…with myself and with others. Constantly pretending. Mastering holograms rather than doing the work of naming, interrogating, repairing what can be repaired, owning it…all of it. When I was a kid, I hurt all over. I really did. I was many things to many people. I studied a room. Analyzed the people therein. Figured out what they valued, what they prayed about and fretted about and who they loved and couldn’t live without. I did this to stay alive. But it left me fragmented. A creature built from the bones of unsaid things. Unacknowledged injuries…to my brain, to my heart. Being whole, or rather the movement towards wholeness is feral, I think. But perhaps it also comes in soft for some. Like a tap on the shoulder. I don’t know. For me it was the ferocity found in the extraordinary acceptance of every part of who I am and who I’ve been and the realization that I don’t ever have to concede to being compartmentalized. I’m larger than that. My story can’t be used against me. I am my own answered prayer. I learned how to save myself when I was eight years old and I’ve been proficient in resurrections ever since. Wholeness to me looks like reclamation and rememory and restoration and responsibility (which in this instance is to say, being responsive to one’s own abilities) and forgiveness. Of others sure, sure fine. To shrug the weight of the event off like Atlas, sure. But to forgive yourself is critical to wholeness, I think. The etymology of the word forgive leads to something urgent: “To give up the desire to punish.” That is an incredible thing to offer yourself. It also facilitates introspection about why you believe you deserve to be punished. You’ll find you often believe that when it was something that actually happened to you. Talk about victim blame…Anyway. I hope I answered you. I am long-winded and tangential. I believe this is because I am a Gemini. 🙂 Where were we?

DJBM: Yes, you definitely answered the question and probably healed some readers in the process. Let’s go somewhere far. You are surveying a primeval star system before its collapse. It is one of the many which will need to be obliterated to form the elements of the world you live in today, including those which constitute your physical incarnation. What do you see among the planets, moons, and asteroids in orbit, and what of the star?

DC: In my mind it’s womb-like. A whorl of possible. Steaming up from the cosmos. Spastic. Chaotic. A riot. I suppose I see whatever atoms splitting look like. Stars like Mardi Gras beads. A Festival of Lights. In my mind it’s terrifying and sudden. Like birth can be. It’s painful watching something fizzle out…even if in doing so it makes space for something else…something seismic. The universe is inventive. Invention is often perilous. The rough draft of the world was a whirl of possible. The crash and bang of it yielded the mountains I go to with my lover every year to sit in the hot springs and occupy our bodies with care. When I was in Cyprus last year, I remember sitting in the Rustem bookstore considering the blessings that can be present in ruptures. Language really needs to grow up with us. Brokenness is really just another way to say, “open door.” Breaks are invitations toward birthings. I guess that’s why when I try to imagine the stars that birthed us, I mostly see my mother’s face. 

DJBM: Beautiful. One-hundred years from now, you wake up from a cryogenic sleep. You go for a walk. Describe what you see.

DC: I don’t know. There are a lot of people dying from bombs and starvation and preventable diseases and terror and fear and that particular reality makes it difficult for me to envision a world worthy of poetry if the kind of consciousness that made this world is still in charge of that one, but my God I hope it’s not. I hope I can activate the more radical parts of my imagination to dream a world that is allowed to heal itself. A world that has been re-indigenated (don’t bother looking that up. But isn’t it grand?) it should be a word. Someone write to Webster and advocate for me.) I digress. A world remade. Children unfamiliar with suffering and war. Because both have been transcended in this new world. Music is everywhere. Pomegranates too. And watermelon and fruit trees. And poets in street corners reciting and things are green, and the animals are not owned by anyone ever again. People either. And I don’t know, a harmonious exchange between man and nature. Unburdened by territorial pursuit or power. I don’t know. Maybe I see human beings remembering to be human beings. Caring for one another. Or maybe we are returned to the imaginal ooze and cosmic portal of never more. 

Thanks for these questions, David. My brain got to go to some cool places. 

DJBM: Thank you for the gift of your words, Dominique. 

Bios:

Dominique Christina, a Denver native, is an award-winning poet, author, curator, conceptual installation artist, and newly appointed Arts Envoy to Cyprus through the U.S. Department of State. She holds five national poetry slam titles in four years, including the 2014 & 2012 Women of the World Slam Champion and 2011 National Poetry Slam Champion. Her work is greatly influenced by her family’s legacy in the Civil Rights Movement. Her aunt Carlotta was one of nine students to desegregate Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas and is a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. Dominique is the author of four books. Her third book, “This Is Woman’s Work”, published by SoundsTrue Publishing, is the radical exploration of 20 archetypal incarnations of woman-ness and the creative process. Her fourth book “Anarcha Speaks” won the National Poetry Series award in 2017 and is being adapted for the theater. https://nationalpoetryseries.org/author/dominique-christina/

She is a writer and actor for the HBO series High Maintenance, did branding and marketing for Gaia, and Under Armour’s Unlike Any campaign, has appeared on the BBC, featured at the Tribeca Film Festival NYC 2021 and curatorial director of The Dirty South choir and short film for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado in 2022. She was named a finalist for Colorado’s Poet Laureate post in 2023.

David John Baer McNicholas authored a novel, Lemons: In an Orchard. He operates a nascent imprint and studies for his BFA at the IAIA in Santa Fe. He reads nonfiction for Bendinggenres.com. His linked CV can be found on at ghostofamerica.net. He loves doom jazz, tostones, and absurd films.

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