Art is something some may not understand but it transcends all living and breathing explanations, giving us the opportunity to see and feel something that is greater than ourselves. To be creative is to express the told and untold feelings, thoughts and emotions that are released through our art and it is the medium to which we feel most at peace with our inner selves. This medium has been utilized time and time again by those artistic beings who know what stroke to paint, move to dance, string to strum, line to draw, note to sing, script to conceptualize; the list goes on.
Words come from the heart. Be it a letter to your mother to tell her you miss her, a story to commemorate the life of a veteran, or a poem to convey your feelings to your loved one. Words are our way of telling our story.
One brilliant mind who has had a way with words from a very young age has been making a name for herself since she realized her passion for the arts.
The Jamaican-born simply describes herself as an artist after giving herself time to develop a response to the what she perceived as the most difficult question for anyone: ‘Who am I?’. ‘Who is Tara Downs?’
“This is probably one of the most difficult questions any of us will have to ever answer, because it’s not necessarily something you think about. But, I am an artist. I have stories to tell and my entire life to share and I’m doing that through my words, through my poetry.” – Tara Downs in an exclusive interview with The Caribbean Current (TCC).
She was involved in everything while pursuing secondary education: dancing, acting, singing, and the works – a queen of all trades. However, the final year university student has been developing her skills as a writer of poetry as her main focus; the other art outlets never interest her as much. She has written in other forms but poetry is where she finds solace; her niche. The B.A. in Literatures in English candidate is also a lifestyle and entertaining writer at the teenAGE Observer and also a flash fiction soft prose writer. Needless to say she always makes reference to her enjoyment of poetry writing – where her passion truly lies even though she engages in writing activities to foster her development.
Her passion for writing spawned from her dear grandmother who was an excellent writer. This family talent was passed down for generations it seems, as she learnt how to read and write under her grandmother’s tutelage. Throughout her years growing up, her grandmother nurtured Downs’ writing until it blossomed into this gift that she would now call, poetry.
She draws inspiration from the likes of Nayyirah Waheed, Yrsa Daley-Ward and Ijeoma Umebinyuo, three well established writers. Her favourite books to date are Salt and Nejma, both by Nayyirah Waheed and Bone by Yrsa Ward.
“The story telling in all these three books is good. I admire the writers and how they defied all the traditional rules of writing and English Language to tell their stories, which made each and every piece impeccably captivating. I love brilliant writing, and these books are great examples of that.” – Tara Downs in an exclusive interview with The Caribbean Current (TCC).
On the topic of books, Downs has taken the task to write her own book entitled Sweet Thorns. She revealed that it is a collection of poetry and soft prose and to be released by mid-January or February of 2017. Bookman Express also known as Dutty Bookman will be publishing her masterpiece.
The idea for Sweet Thorns came on the heels of her working with a publisher last summer. While working with him she gained exposure to the intricacies of writing a book, from editing to publishing, so the experience just concreted the goal for her book. She confidently showed him some of her poetry and impressed by her work, he encouraged her to enter the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) Creative Writing Competition. Entering for the first time in the poetry section, she placed second.
“I am not entirely certain I was ever fixated on having a book of my own prior to my encounter with this publisher, but that summer when I left, I began toying with the idea, at first it was funny, but I began to think. Omg. I definitely should. I have stories I would like to air. This would be the perfect way to send my voice, my art through the speakers and so, after my epiphany (if we’re calling it that) I began writing.” – Tara Downs in an exclusive interview with The Caribbean Current (TCC).
Since then, she has performed her poetry pieces at the University of the West Indies and also at the monthly fellowship hosted by the Poetry Society of Jamaica at the Edna Manley School of Performing & Visual Arts. She was twice the featured poet at the fellowship – at the New Year New Voices last year (2015) and Re-Verse (2016)- and she was also featured in the 2015 issues of Susumba’s Caribbean Art Magazine.
Other than entering in the JCDC competition and getting featurettes, which have given her a lot of exposure, she uses the social media platforms and her blog to share her voice with the public. She rates her support a solid eight out of ten.
“I think most of my support comes from social media. A lot of people are genuinely interested in what I have to say, and how I say it and are also really excited about my book. I also get great support from the Poetry Society of Jamaica.” – Tara Downs in an exclusive interview with The Caribbean Current (TCC).
Like every emerging adult, she enjoys the perks of social media and connecting with friends and her peers. She browses the internet, YouTube channels, read blogs or stalk attractive persons on Instagram. She finds that she also has an admiration for adventure so she travels a lot and engages in photography, another hobby of hers.
Looking into the future, in the next five years, she sees herself travelling and exploring the world and different cultures as well as writing and publishing more of her poetry. Career wise she aspires to become a teacher in her field of Literature – creative writing and English – to secondary and tertiary level students.
When asked what advice she has for those persons who want to start writing but are scared to open up and get exposure, her response was quite insightful:
“You have a voice that needs to be heard. You have stories that need to be told. First, write them for yourself, when you write for yourself, it comes from an honest place. But I think the most important thing you should remember, regardless of everything, you are an artist first and once you write from a place of raw truth it will be easier to own your craft and share yourself and your art.” – Tara Downs in an exclusive interview with The Caribbean Current (TCC)
I will come with my mouth full of fire.
Heated. Blazing. Burning. Howling.
I will come carrying the ocean in my belly
and I will pour and pour and pour.
for I am in love
and my heart is breaking,
bursting and shrinking back into itself.”
-Excerpt from Tara Down’s poem entitled ‘Out’
By Alexandra Daley