Bára Interviews Tiana Coven

Updated: Jan 30, 2019

Tiana Coven is a native Floridian who graduated from the University of South Florida, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English, with a concentration in Literature. She has experience writing and editing various types of literature, including fiction, academic, and journalistic pieces. In her poetry she enjoys exploring dream interpretations and combining blackout poetry with photography. 

How did writing come to you?

I’ve always wanted to write everything from poetry to critical essays, but for years I allowed my self-doubt to get in the way. I used to open my laptop and waste time just staring at a blank document and hope that I could be graced with any motivation. I would even go as far as to create these in-depth outlines for the work I wanted to create, but when it came time to actually write the piece, I couldn’t bring myself to do the work. What was stopping me was a combination of a fear of putting myself out there, fear of making myself vulnerable, vicious self-doubt, and a fierce struggle with depression that I’ve always carried with me. Sluggishness overpowered me. I only recently got out of that slump, although the self-doubt and sluggishness still creep up on me occasionally. Last spring, I had a sort of “starting over” moment and I felt lower than I’ve ever felt before (which is saying something for me) and I needed something to distract myself from my emotional pain. So, I started to write. Mostly poetry, though my earliest attempts will most likely never be seen by anyone other than me. I wrote them for me and no one else. But my sudden inspiration sparked something inside of me and I haven’t stopped writing since. I admit, my writing skill is still in its beginning stage since I just started taking myself seriously less than a year ago- but I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. I can only get better from here.

What do you think is the relationship between words and the visual, how do they work together, how do they differ?

In my collages I combine both the visual and the written. I use blackout poetry and pictures of various scenery from my life to combine them into a collage that conveys a deeper meaning than the pieces can communicate on their own. In my collage work I always make sure to pair a poem that expresses my emotions or thoughts with a scene that correlates in some way. The poem allows for the reader to understand how I was feeling in the moment that I snapped the photo. They blend together in order for the reader to catch a glimpse into a feeling that was either stewing over time and weighing heavily on my heart or was fleeting but still powerful. Alone the blackout poems can evoke a certain feeling on their own and the photos allow a glimpse into the scenery that I as an individual consider beautiful. These scenes range from the top of a mountain to a spare tree in the suburbs. The combination of both provide the reader with the bigger picture of my past and present. Both the written and visual can exist on their own, but together I think they’re quite dynamic.

What is your local literary community like? How does the internet literary community effect your writing?

I’ve been jumping from one place to another lately. Besides the small town that I grew up in, I haven’t lived in one place for more than two years, so you can definitely say the online literary community is very influential to me. At the moment that I’m writing this, I’m living temporarily in the conservative town I grew up in. And although I’m in the process of preparing myself for a move to a larger city, I find myself quite stifled when it comes to the artistic community in my current town. The internet literary community on the other hand inspires me to dig deeper into my own emotions and branch out in creative ways that I never considered before. It also provides me with a bit of imposter syndrome. I see everyone else’s work and I think damn, I don’t think I’ll ever be that good, and I question if I belong. But I think everyone feels that way, and I try to instead channel that energy into motivation for me to dive deeper and practice writing and collaging more.

What are you currently reading?

I’m always reading as an editor for Coffin Bell Journal, so dark, thrilling literature is always somewhere close to me. I also love to read the latest issues of the many literary journals that I follow. But as far as my non-literary journal reading goes, I mostly read LGBT+ young adult fiction! Mostly the romantic stuff (I know, it’s quite the contrary to the journals I read, but I like the diversity of it all.) The novel I’m reading right now is “This is Kind of an Epic Love Story” by Kheryn Callender. After that, I’m jumping into “Girls of Paper and Fire” by Natasha Ngan, and then “Here Comes the Sun” by Nicole Dennis-Benn!

Where do you see the future of poetry? 

Well I certainly hope it continues to be a community that accepts diversity among its ranks. As far as the people who are creating it, and the art itself.

What do you think we need to reimagine in the literary world? In the real world? 

I definitely think those of us in the literary world need to work to decolonize literature. It’s obvious that the literary community has always prioritized privileged voices, particularly the upper-class/white/straight/cis men who have been applauded for centuries and titled “the greats”- and they still should be! But it’s also obvious that these voices being uplifted has had a negative effect on how we read marginalized voices. Even the women who have been awarded the same status are majorly European and upper-class. We’re taught to believe that these voices are the standard on what it means to write great literature, so much so that we sometimes subconsciously compare marginalized writers to privileged ones, and that’s not always fair. Not because marginalized writers can’t write high quality literature- we obviously can- but because we live different lives and face different trials (which is undoubtedly going to bleed into our fictional/literary narratives) our literature isn’t going to be identical. Yet, we oftentimes become pressured to shield these narratives. This is how literature becomes colonized- Our education system often teaches us to write following the outline of writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald or William Faulkner, in lieu of writing the way that feels natural to that individual writer.

And the colonization of literature isn’t just publishers refusing to publish more than a select few of “diverse” voices, it’s also marginalized writers subconsciously changing the way they write, changing their narratives, in order to please publishers, who they know are often in places of privilege in society, and thus might not be willing to sign a writer that digs deep into a narrative that’s not familiar to them. The authentic stories of the marginalized are often stifled because we as marginalized writers often doubt sections of our work that we know might not be well received by the literary community as a whole. And it’s so much more complex than just the word use or dialect writers choose. It’s often times entire narratives being cut out in order to prevent friction in various spaces, considering we as marginalized people often have to tip-toe around what we really want to say, in fear that it might reflect badly on our entire community. Decolonizing literature means telling authentic stories, unaffected by the power structures already put in place for us. As far as I’m concerned, decolonizing any part of our society has a positive impact on everyone in the world, whether in regard to the literary world or not.

Are you working on any longer projects?

I’m still in an experimental stage when it comes to my writing. I haven’t quite found my niche, what I’m really good at, and what I love creating. I still consider everything I create practice for when I find the exact thing I’m passionate about putting into the world. Right now, I’m experimenting with writing short stories, so I’m looking forward to where that takes me. I’m always creating blackout poems and collaging them with images from my daily life, and I hope to keep practicing and start creating collages that are more complex in nature. I’m trying not to put pressure on myself to create long projects right now. Instead I’m working to find my own voice. For now, my collages can be found in Rose Quartz Magazine of course, and Umbel and Panicle. My poetry can be found in Awkward Mermaid and Déraciné, and I have collages forthcoming in Moonchild Magazine’s fifth issue and the first issue of honey & lime! I always post updates on my twitter @Tiana_Coven!

Recent Posts

See All

It was a pleasure to talk poetry, sensations, and magic with poet Jenna Velez! Make sure to light a candle, put on some smooth sounds, and explore her work. Jenna Velez is an emerging queer Latinx poe