Jorah LaFleur is a local poet. A performer. A performance poet. And quite a bit more. You can think of her various identities as black and white stripes, but they are more abstract than linear, like a zebra. “I am not,” she asserts, “a gray horse!”
Ask LaFleur about her love of words. Ask her why she writes. She’ll likely provide you rich, varied answers. Many of those answers she’s recited in public or put on a page. . . .
I write because there’s a tiny world inside every cell and each has a story to tell
LaFleur’s attraction to writing began at age 7, when she started journaling in a tiny diary secured by lock and key. “Personal secrets,” she recalls, laughing, “cast as terrible little rhymey poems.” The poems provided her a sense of preciousness.
By high school graduation she had invested a decade in writing poetry. In fact, her talent and commitment to the craft foisted her on stage as a featured speaker at her graduation ceremony. It was her first noteworthy public poetry performance, for an audience of several thousand. She discovered appreciation and grand personal acknowledgement at that event.
I write to be honest with myself
LaFleur describes herself as deeply introverted, a woman “requiring a ton of solitude.” That’s a somewhat surprising self-description given that she established herself as a celebrated Eugene-area stage performer and MC at uncountable poetry slam events dating back a decade. And yet, she is comfortable exploring contradictions, in both herself and her world. Paradoxically, for example, she also often describes her basic nature as that of an extrovert.
Introvert? Extrovert? Or both?
“Part of writing and reflecting and sharing this art form is a natural piece of getting to know yourself,” she laughs. “Try and write something that isn’t at least somewhat a part of you. That isn’t going to happen!”
I write so that you might know you’re not alone and I might know the same
As much as LaFleur draws inspiration and purpose from great poetry, she also embraces the values embedded in many other forms of artistic expression. It’s a big piece of her association with varied artists across the local community. Musicians, singers, actors. . .
Would it surprise you that she considers music to be magic? She has collaborated with many local musicians — but not as a conventional instrumentalist, singer, or lyricist. Rather, she uses her spoken word voice as a tool. Like when she recently paired up with a classical cellist. And with Eugene’s jazzy rocker group SageCrow.
“I love poetry outside other art forms,” she explains. “I like it in unexpected places. Like maybe with shadow puppets, or a burlesque dance, or in live performances where the audience fills in blank spaces with their imagination.”
I write to fight the fear of heart-revealing ink-drip my feelings into your ears that you might hear the sound of my pounding
You can think of the poetry she was crafting in her late teens and early 20s as largely reflecting a “soap box” approach to observing herself and the world, but her more recent poetic creations have turned toward nuanced personal intimacy and reflections of the soulful experiences in lives she observes. Her self-published collection, Covidian Times, is a perfect example.
Likewise, her comments in everyday discussion often slide away from commonplace expression toward personalized poetic rhythms and rhyme. “Pen in motion, heart spoken, when it’s broken leave it open,” she answers in an unanticipated response to a question about her sources for artistic inspiration.
I write to defy time
Ask what makes for good poetry and she’ll likely pause. She’s hesitant about being assigned a role as spokesperson for other artists who share her love of words. Yet she’s clear about which elements most appeal to her own sense of poetic expression: surprises, elegance, conciseness, feeling overwhelmed by a turn of phrase.
“Good poetry,” LaFleur says, “walks an interesting line between abstraction and overt understanding. The goal is always connection. But going forward I’m most interested in honing my own curiosity. For these times, I see no greater virtue than being curious.”
by Jorah LaFleur
Dance Little Caterpillar, Dance!
What Other Chance Will You Have?
Wiggle Like The Wind
Within Your Temporary Skin.
It Could Begin Shortly
The End Of You
The Beginning Of You
(We Are Going Through Something Here,
Crawling Near An Edge)
Shimmy Your Way
Over The Gravel, Rock
Out While You Still Can
There’s A Plan Coming Soon
To Cocoon You
Shelter You In Place
Before You Face
Dance As Though
You Wish You Had Wings