By: Savannah Schepp
A few things about Clementine von Radics: first, she’s probably tired of being asked the same questions in interviews; second, she’s cool as hell. Not cool as in the homecoming-queen-cool, but the whiskey-drinking, tattooed, unapologetic cool. Her poetry relishes in loves lost and hardships of the past. But watching her perform spoken-word on stage, her almond-shaped eyes ooze a confidence that I imagine puts fear in the hearts of men. That’s probably one of the most important things I learned from the Portland-based writer; you can be emotional and vulnerable and simultaneously a complete badass.
“I’ve always wanted to be an artist and a performer,” she explained to me. “I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of a being excellent at a single thing… If it hadn’t been writing it would have been something else.”
She began writing at age ninenteen, and today, at twenty-three, fans have her words tattooed on their skin. Her latest book, “A Mouthful of Forevers” compiles her two earlier books along with roughly forty additional poems and is currently a bestseller. She told me these things leave her humbled, but I had to ask how the journey to becoming an internationally traveling author began. She claimed “it was a lucky combination of reading Anais Nin, buying a beautiful notebook, and breaking up with a boy all within the same week.”
Thus, she “fell in love with confessional writing” and began her online blog, a series of edited diary entries that within roughly six months enabled her to quit her job and take on writing full-time. She credits her poem, “For Nikki”, as the turning point in her career.
“I like the interactions you have as an artist. I like the idea of something that I create being a source of pleasure and healing for people, and not interacting with them in the process,” Clementine told me. “That one degree of separation allows me to be close to people while still being apart.”
Her poetry focuses on the issues faced by women, and Clementine is adamant about her feminism. “Oh, fuck yeah, I identify as a feminist,” she told me. “I get asked in interviews all the time, and it seems like such an odd question, because to me because my feminism is so ingrained in everything I do it’s doesn’t seem like a question you even have to ask… I think misogyny and patriarchy are harmful to all genders and I want to be part of the discussion of how we as a society move away from that kind of thinking. I also just love women. I love surrounding myself with smart, creative, empowered women.”
Clementine: It’s not in your head; it really is that bad right now. You’re going to look back on this like a death you lived through. But you got through it, and it made you more interesting.
NA: Alternately, if you could send your future self a single message, what would that be?
Clementine: I hope you are kind and hard working and good.
NA: I find your spoken word pieces incredibly lyrical – is your poetry at all influenced by music? What artists are you currently listening to?
Clementine: My Dad is a professional musician and he owns a record store where I worked when I was a teenager. I studied singing in a conservatory setting when I was a teenager. Music has always been in my life. What I listen to changes all the time, but right now I’m really into Chicago Hip Hop, early R&B like Little Walter and Muddy Waters, and a lot of soft sweet stuff like Bon Iver and Lucy Rose.
NA: What is the writing process like for you? Do you have any “rituals”?
Clementine: I pre-write a lot, I take a lot of notes and I write a lot of drafts. A typical poem takes about 5 hours spread out over the course of a few weeks to go from it’s inception to what it looks like when it’s published.
NA: If your readers could only take away one thing from “A Mouthful of Forevers”, what would you want that to be?
Clementine: Allowing yourself to be emotional and kind is a very cool, brave thing to do.
NA: What are your shameless obsession(s)?
Clementine: Denim, Beyonce, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, American history, Tony Kushner’s plays, poetry, and whiskey.