Meet the Artist: Angel Hogan
Our series dedicated to meeting the artists and collaborators of Mother/Daughter, continues with EBP founder Lauren Leonard (LL) interviewing poet and author Angel Hogan (AH).
Angel has performed as part of the Black Women’s Arts Festival, Literary Death Match, Moonstone Presents, First Person Arts, Painted Bride Quarterly and the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Angel worked with ArtWell, was a Contributing Editor to Philadelphia Stories, and a review panelist for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. As a teaching artist, Angel is most interested in initiatives that use storytelling as a vehicle for tolerance, peace, and community building.
LL: For purposes of this interview, I’d like to focus on your work as a poet. When did you start writing?
AH: I’ve been writing since I was quite young…maybe 5 or 6 years old? I loved to read and writing was an escape for me. I found books amazing and words like magic.
LL: Do you write in a specific style?
AH: I don’t. I was an English major in school, and learned many of the popular forms and styles, but there is no one style that is “me.” I like experimenting and the unexpected.
LL: Thematically, are there topics you tend to write about or shy away from?
AH: Ahhh. That is a great question. Much of my early writing found me grappling with a somewhat unusual childhood, as part of a multiracial family living on a farm in rural PA. Many of our neighbors and schoolmates were intolerant; it was tough and sometimes downright violent. It was also bizarre and beautiful. For a long time, I found myself circling back to race, identity. Family. I still write about these things but think more about all of us as a human “family” and what it means to look life in the face. Grief, love, longing, grace.
LL: How are writing and performing related for you? How is the practice of each different?
AH: I am fairly green as a performer and find that I love it. Writing can be a pretty solitary, even lonely act. Performance creates a connection - with other artists as well as the audience. I also think that performing demands a vulnerability that has allowed me to consider taking more chances as a writer. It’s all one big Trust Fall. It reminds us, over and over, that we are alive and grabbing the moment.
LL: For the uninitiated, what’s the poetry scene like here in Philly?
AH: There is a rich poetry scene here in Philly. We are all very lucky. Nearly any night of the week you can find an open mic, a featured event, spoken word, experimental readings.
LL: You wrote an original piece for Mother/Daughter? How is it written and what inspired it?
AH: I am adopted. Put simply, my piece, Two Mothers is about my birth Mom and my Mom. It is kind of a dreamy landscape, connecting with my birth Mom before I was born, and having to let her go. Part two is connecting anew with the Mom who adopted me, and gave me my name, raised me. She is an amazing woman, who sailed her boat to Florida in her 50’s… which meant a parting for us. The poem is about beginnings, beginnings, beginnings, tide circling to sea and shore again. It is about impossible decisions and tiny magics. And of course, love.
LL: This is not your first Fringe Festival. As an artist working in Philly, what does Fringe mean to you?
AH: Fringe is an excellent opportunity to get out there and be a part of performance that is off the tired path…whether you are the one on stage or the one viewing.
LL: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s festival?
AH: I am so excited to be working with the dynamic Mother/Daughter cast, as well with EBP. I flipped through the Fringe Festival magazine and circled about two-dozen other shows I’d like to see. If only there was time! I am looking forward to soaking it all in.
LL: Related to your piece and mothers and daughters, what’s the next step for you?
AH: I am working on a short documentary that chronicles the experience of taking a genetic test. As an adopted person with little knowledge of my background, this is exciting and scary. These tests have the potential to unlock exhilarating, illuminating doors for folks like me with little or no understanding of our genetic background. The knowledge may also be unsettling: what if you find you are not who you thought you were? What exactly is identity? Who gets to decide?
I have never worked with film before, so it is all new territory. As an artist, one of the things I find most powerful about sharing our experiences, though sometimes difficult, is how they often serve as a way to build community and greater understanding. I believe this particular brand of empathy is especially urgent now, during a time when so many are divided afresh by current politics and horrors.
Mother/Daughter Sept 15 8pm & Sept 16, 2pm, Philly PACK (233 Federal)
To see more of Angel's work, visit www.angelhogan.com