Hi guys, I am thrilled to be interviewing Lenee H. Lenee is a young author who recently published her first collection of poetry, Cosmic Phases, on November 28, 2018. Her latest collection, Radiant Souls was an Amazon bestseller for a week and now is in the top 100 for LGBT Poetry. Lenee’s main goal is to connect with people through her art. Today, I wanted to talk to her about poetry, mental health, and LGBTQ+ representation in literature. Here’s what she had to say.
Tell me about Your Two Collections?
My first collection is Cosmic Phases. It explores topics of trauma, healing, social issues, and love. My second and most recent release is Radiant Souls, which is filled with themes of identity, relationships, and self-love.
What Inspired Them?
Cosmic Phases began with me wanting to write some poetry to get my name out into the publishing world. It quickly turned into something of an experience for me. I really learned a lot about myself and my values. I know it won't be the best book I've ever written, but it will always mean a lot to me as it helped me find and form my voice. As for Radiant Souls, I was really inspired to write a softer collection, something celebrating life and people. Something to reflect on my own growth and the beauty of life. We all love our “angsty” poetry, but it felt necessary to write something lighter and more hopeful.
You Decided to Self Published Your Poetry. What Led You to That Decision and What Was Your Publishing Journey Like?
Well, in all honesty, misinformation is what first made me start with self-publishing. I hadn't found the writing community yet, and so, when I sought out to get published, all I had was Google. And Google isn't always great at giving the correct information. Especially when a lot of "advice" articles are filled with bias and misinformation written for attention. Either way, I thought self-publishing was the most inexpensive route, and you had to pay agents for traditional publishing. Despite that being false, I'm still glad I self-published!
With poetry, I think it can be a really good route, so you can have as much freedom over your work as you want. I decided to do the same with Radiant Souls, even correctly informed and with understanding of the extra hard work which goes into self-publishing, I wanted to completely own and be in charge of my poetry. It's been a huge learning curve. While Amazon's layout is fairly straight forward, I still had to figure out how things should be formatted, how to get my documents to cooperate. And honestly, most of all, the hardest part has been learning how to market myself. But I think that's a struggle for all authors, not only self-published ones. Radiant Souls launch was so much better than Cosmic Phases. I knew how to build an audience and how to do pre-order campaigns. If I could go back and re-do my first launch, I would, but I can't, so I've chosen to learn from it and keep going.
What Makes a Great Poetry Collection?
I feel like that's not the easiest thing to answer because it's particular to each person and where they're at in their life. I think a great poetry collection is any collection which is an honest expression of oneself and where they are in their life. That raw, informal baring of one's heart and soul into a book is what draws me to reading and writing poetry. I don't care if someone's prose is perfect or if there are grammatical errors when it comes to poetry, I want to connect with the sentiment behind the words more than knit pick the technical side of it.
You Poetry Includes Sapphic Poems and Discussions on Mental Health. Why do you feel it is Important to Write About These Things?
Honestly, when I started writing poetry, it was for me more than anything. But once I published my collection(s) and began getting responses, I realized how much being candid and open about myself and my struggles resonated with others. The more we create content which touches upon subjects, society tends to try and keep hushed; the more it will free others to find their voice too. I've also found writing about my experiences as a queer individual, and someone who struggles with mental health helps give voice to others who struggle to find the right words. To me, that's what poetry is about in general.
Do you think there is enough diverse representation out now? If no, why do you think this is?
I know there isn't. There's a lot more white, queer content out there, sure. But there's still a lack of support and representation of marginalized groups. Writers of color are still struggling to be taken seriously in the publishing world. Their places are being taken by white people who tell stories that aren't theirs to tell. Writers of color are still being turned away only to see then a white author get a book deal and be applauded for "diversity." The publishing world is a harsh place for everyone, but it's even harder for those who don't have white privilege. I think things are getting better bit by bit. I've been seeing more books written by authors of color and queer individuals being hyped up in mainstream circles. But there's still a long way to go. As long as I'm still reading articles and posts from marginalized writers speaking about their struggle and the lack of representation for them, then there's not enough diverse representation.
How does your identity play into The Poetry Your Write?
It influences a vast majority of what I write. Poetry is about expressing ourselves and our experience. And my experiences have a lot to do with being a queer person. Radiant Souls is filled with identity, both when it comes to sexual orientation and gender. Being someone who is in a marginalized community makes me want to write to give everyone something they can identify with. Poetry tends to be very binary in my experience, which is what led me to write a lot of gender-neutral pieces in RS. Knowing how little I saw sapphic poetry for most of my life, makes me want not just to write more of it, but to keep in mind what other areas might be lacking which I can give attention to.
Are you working on anything right now?
Yes! While I can't release the title yet, I am working on my third collection. I also have a few novels in the early stages, but talking about them seems to be a jinx for me, so, for now, it's hush hush.
What Is Your Favorite Poem From Each Collection?
Oh, it's kinda hard to choose favorites. I'd say for Cosmic Phases page 55 will always be special to me.
"the heart is a muscle beating and bleeding
it is not made of glass nor woven with metal
it did not come from the earth a cold or icy stone
a heart is made of flesh it may be strained,
bruised, aching but it will not shatter it cannot be broken
the heart is a muscle and as long as it beats as long as it bleeds it still continues
you will still survive"
For Radiant Souls, I really feel like page 27 really captures how I felt when writing the collection.
"i want to fill my house with art, and color, and love
i want to paint these walls with every shade of healing
i want to keep the windows open and invite the sun in to stay
i want the floors to be touched by a warmth which fills the soul
water will not fall from the faucet
instead love will trickle out pure and unfiltered,
limitless i will fill my home with everything of which it was once deprived."
Thank You So Much For Your Time. Before I Go, Where Can We Find You?
You can buy Cosmic Phases here and Radiant Souls here. For more writer interviews, updates on my work, querying tips, and miscellaneous fun, don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list or follow me on Twitter.