Like a lot of writers and avid readers, Remica Bingham-Risher’s interest in reading poetry sparked at a young age. She stated, “I found my love of poetry in the fifth grade. My teacher brought in a poem by Langston Hughes and I was blown away.”
While she recognized her admiration for poetry, she was not aware of the opportunities available in the poetry world until later in life, which probably sounds familiar to many of the English and Creative Writing students who attended the reading.
She also commented, “I didn’t realize I wanted to start writing poetry for a living until I was in college and met Tim Seibles, a fantastic poet in his own right, who made me see that writing poetry in the here and now was a possibility.”
On Tuesday September 17, Longwood University kicked off the 2019 Authors Reading Series in Wygal auditorium with the first reader, Bingham-Risher, who as an accomplished poet who has published three poetry books in the past several years.
In between reading her work, Remica Bingham-Risher mentioned some of the main themes written in her most recent book, Starlight & Error, which reflects an abundance of love for her husband and other family members in her life.
One of the main themes discussed was family and the variety of emotional ways that love for family presents itself. In fact, many of the pieces are inspired by Bingham-Risher’s own experiences with her family.
When asked if she ever focuses on any specific family members throughout her writing process, she responded, “I honestly don’t focus on anyone when I write poetry; I write what comes. Sometimes my mom shows up, sometimes my dad or my husband or my children. Sometimes it’s a great great grandmother that I never met.”
Music is another main concept that shapes Starlight & Error, in addition to influencing the poet’s life. At the beginning of the reading, she immediately demonstrated her love for music and its connection to her work by singing during her first poem.
“Soul music has influenced my work more than any other because that was the music I heard in my household growing up,” recalled Bingham-Risher, “My dad also loves jazz, my mom loves R&B, so they instilled that love in me. I’ve always been pretty eclectic when it comes to my own music choices, so all kinds of things—from Beyoncé to Fall Out Boy to Allen Stone to Handel—might end up in a poem of mine.”
When asked how the publishing process has changed since her first book came out, Bingham-Risher admitted, “It really hasn’t changed that much. My first book won a poetry prize and was published. My third book won a different poetry prize and was published. So, as a poet, the publishing process is sometimes just to send your work out into the world and hope that someone sees it and understands what you’re trying to do. The real hope is that someone will hold it as valuable and necessary work, then give it space.”
When thinking of the future, Bingham-Risher is currently working on her fourth book and looks forward to writing poetry on topics beyond her own point of view.
She noted, “the next book I’m working on is all about two of my grandmothers. They converge in Petersburg, Virginia in a strange twist of kismet. I’m looking forward to not having to write about myself in this next book. It’s nice to get a break from yourself every once in a while. I also think it’s important to delve into where we came from, to look back as a way of helping us continue looking forward.
Bingham-Risher also works as Director of Writing and Faculty Development at Old Dominion University, living with her husband and two children in Norfolk, Virginia.