Happy Pride Month June 2021: Poet interview with Andreena Leeanne: ‘CHARRED'
A few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of chatting with Andreena Leeanne about her collection of poems ‘CHARRED: A survivor speaks her truth to inspire’. I have seen & heard first hand how much of an inspiration she is during events where she has shared her poems and especially during this interview where I caught my breath many times and I have no doubt you will too. At the end of the interview, you can find details of her self-care workshops and how to book one if you are interested. This was shared on booklovers blog in April, however during Pride Month I will be highlighting LGBTQ+ role models on this blog too.
Andreena is an out and proud Black working-class Lesbian poet, inspirational speaker and mother. Let’s meet her.
How did you come to write poetry?
Andreena: I found poetry in 2014 when my girlfriend Germaine and I went to an open mic night and someone asked me ‘Would you like to go on the open mic?’ and I replied ‘no, I haven’t written a poem or done anything like that since I was a child. I’m only here to support my partner who wants us to do more things she’s interested in like going to events, theatres and museums’.
Later on during the event, I found the guy and told him ‘You know what, if you get me a pen and paper, I’ll write something and if I feel like sharing it then I will do’ and that’s what happened, In February 2014, I wrote and shared my 1st poem on an open mic and the rest is history as they say. Writing poetry has changed my life.
That’s very brave in that moment to ask for a pen and paper and just share it, that’s wonderful.
Andreena: Yes, I wrote about the night, the event and it came really naturally to me come to think of it and people have asked me since if I was interested in writing before and I’ve said ‘no’ but yeah I have.
Was that recently or as a child?
Andreena: As a teenager, I used to keep a journal and one day my mum (who I’ve had great difficulties with) came into my room and she opened up this journal I kept in my room. I’d written in big capital letters on it ‘I HATE MY MUM, I HATE MY MUM’ like doing lines for school. When I came home from school, my room was trashed, she had torn posters off my wall, had my journal and she asked, ‘What is this about you hate me?’
I was just livid – that I’d written something so personal and I couldn’t even share my feelings on paper. She confronted me about it and I was in big trouble for writing what I felt. I was a teenager and remember it vividly. From that day I vowed never to write anything down where anyone could see it and if I did write anything, I would burn it so that nobody ever got to see what I’d written.
Some people have commented ‘you write so naturally, you write from the heart, you’ve never studied poetry or anything like that, you’ve never been to poetry nights before this, now you’re writing like this, where did it come from?’
So I’ve reflected on that. I know that, had that situation not happened with my mum, I reckon I could have been a writer by now because I used to enjoy it. I used to write. Now having found poetry again, I’m nearly 40 so it’s been a long time and recently I’ve been going back and connecting the dots and figuring a lot out. A lot of that has been down to this book.
So I started going to poetry nights, my partner bought me a journal. I wrote poems as I went along to lots of events as I said ‘ Germaine, this is wonderful. Why have we not been doing this before’
We went round different poetry events in 2014 and then in January 2015 I started Poetry LGBT as I realised that there wasn’t really anywhere for us to express ourselves. There were lots of places we could go to drink and to party but not many places where we could write about how we feel and share that with anyone else. So over 6 years of Poetry LGBT, I filled up some journals.
What made you want to publish your poems?
Andreena: In 2018, my poems were published in an anthology called ‘Sista!’, an anthology by and about same-gender loving women of African and Caribbean descent with a UK connection. I was really proud of that as that’s the first time my poems have ended up in a published book.
International Women’s day March 2019 was the first time I wrote about my abuse experience because the theme of the event was ‘Protest’. For me, breaking my silence about my abuse was breaking my silence and protesting.
I spent the rest of the year thinking of the abuse and what I’d shared and then I shared the poem on the survivors trust website (http://www.thesurvivorstrust.org). As the months went on, it felt like I needed to talk and share more as in sharing that journey people have come to me and said ‘ I too am 1 in 4, that’s happened to metoo’ so at the time it felt like the most important thing.