Interview With Janne Robinson

Posted on August 11th, 2015

Janne Robinson Red Flag Article

“Vulnerability doesn’t get easier. I just make the choice not to let fear of judgment or shame win.” 

Last May we teamed up with Janne Robinson, poet, writer, and activist to create “This Is For The Women Who Don’t Give A Fuck”, a video portrayal of Janne’s poem of the same name. The video, which launched last week is an anthem of radical self love and authenticity.

This month Janne joined the Red Flag family as a contributing voice. We’re excited to continue to collaborate together and to feature her insightful and starkly human voice.

In this interview Janne tells us about the making of the “Women Who Don’t Give A Fuck” video, her writing process and what she gives a fuck about.

RED FLAG: Tell us about “This Is For The Women Who Don’t Give A Fuck”. When did you write it? What are you saying with this poem?

Janne Robinson: I wrote “This is For the Women Who Don’t Give a Fuck” in the parking lot of the Langdale ferry terminal on my laptop. I just returned from acting in a music video for Jay Sparrow where I spent a week with a woman who was a single mom, makeup artist, stylist, entreprenuer and essentially a super hero. I felt very inspired by her ability to do it all, and do all well.

It is written about multiple women in my life who inspire me, not just one. 

RED FLAG: What are some of the issues you give a fuck about most?

Janne Robinson: Women’s rights, street dog overpopulation, gender equality, homophobia, body shaming.

RF: Why did you decide to turn this poem into a film and what was that process like?

JR: If you’re an artist in the twentieth century, you’re also an entrepreneur. My first mentor Dianne Whelan was incredible at multi-platforming her work. She would write a feature article, film a documentary, create a multimedia presentation and write a book on the same story.

“This is For the Women Who Don’t Give a Fuck” was received very well online–I wanted to give it a voice.

I was feeling inspired by the magic of New York, driving with, Nicole Davis, the founder of Red Flag, a new sister who I had just met, talking about what was next and I mentioned wanting to do a spoken word poetry video. She said, “Why not now?”

I put a call out to the women of New York on my social media asking if they wanted to be involved in a spoken word video of the poem that night and had an overwhelming response so I decided to just do it. The entire process happened within 5 days. It was chaotic, inspiring, and reassuring that if you want to give birth to a project–you can create it (with an army of support). 

RF: That was your first time in NYC – what was that like?

JR: I was completely overwhelmed for the first day. I came from living in a community of two hundred people in Costa Rica for four months to being smack dab in the middle of Times Square in Manhattan. I was turned off by all of it and then something switched.

I was sitting eating lunch one day and watched a man in his thirties walk by holding a bouquet of yellow sunflowers, he had a train of little girls holding onto one another’s shirt behind him as they crossed the street. The next man to pass had a “Pro-choice. Pro-feminist. Pro-dinosaur” shirt on. (That man may very well be my soulmate.) I left loving the energy — the hum of stimulation that is in the streets. It definitely calls you to move and love and create.

RF: Poetry is so rare to come by these days. What would you say in defense of poetry and what place do you think poetry has in a digital world where language continues to be truncated and deep emotions are being conveyed through emoticons?

JR: Charles Bukowski said that poetry should “…be exciting, it should upset the grandmothers and make strong men puke. Make the spiders laugh and the sea shit back.”

A wise Italian once told me there is very little between good poetry and bad poetry. A typewriter doesn’t make a poet, nor does writing a poem. Poetry is a different breed of writing and our generation hasn’t birthed many poets I’m fond of (other than Tyler Knott). We’re too busy Tindering and watching cat videos. 

RF: In what ways do you think poetry can be a vehicle for change and activism?

JR: Poetry can successfully say something pungently in very few words. We have less of an attention span than gerbils right now, so poetry can be enticing with its simplicity and highly effective in making us stop and listen. 

RF: When did you start writing? Was there a moment or a piece of work you can recall when you first recognized the sound of your true “voice”?

JR: I’ve been writing since grade three. I had a short story about a hamster with three wishes that was published in Stepping Stones. My grandma told me she remembers the day I wrote my first poem. I began with “roses are red, violets are blue” until she told me that poems could rhyme. Then I spent an entire day at the kitchen table writing “sat, hat, fat, mat, rat.” 

My voice was softer and fluffier until I was about 24. The first things I wrote were soft and sweet but lacking any huevos or might. In the last year my voice has gained backbone.

RF: When did you make that first step in sharing your voice publicly?

JR: Facebook status and notes. People used to tell me Facebook was the wrong platform and to get a blog. Facebook was my blog, and a way I connected with others–still is.

RF: What’s your writing process like now? How often do you write? Are there any special times of day or rituals that get you started– What are some of the impulses and influences that spark your pen into motion?

JR: I write everyday. I am inspired effortlessly. My process is like a whirlwind. If the words come I’ll stop someone mid-sentence and run for a pen and paper–and I’m the worst writer I know, I never carry a pen or paper. 

I wrote a poem in the hospital once. The first two lines came right after an exam with my gynecologist. I wandered down white hallways in a blue assless gown hunting the nurses down for a pen.

I write when I’m in love. I write late at night. I write at dawn. I write to process pain. I write after sex. Human connection and love–not men, but love are my greatest muses.

RF: “To the women who curse like truck drivers…” you’re not the type of writer to shy away from profanities. What has been the backlash, if any, of being so raw and unfiltered.

JR: Less Christians read my work. 

RF: Do you ever hold anything back when you write — is there ever a part of you that comes to the surface to be expressed but you choose not to reveal it?

JR: I am pretty much naked with my writing–90% is nonfiction and about my life.

Whenever I want to hold back sharing something, it’s often because it’s incredibly intimate and vulnerable. The things that are raw and from my core are always worth saying.

Vulnerability doesn’t get easier. I just make the choice not to let fear of judgment or shame win.

RF: What piece of your writing is out there today that makes you feel most exposed?

JR: “Aborting Shame One Woman’s Experience Within Abortion.” 

RF: Who do you write for – if anyone?

JR: I always write for myself. I only write about things that I am inspired to talk about. I am a feature columnist with elephant journal and I also contributed to Folk Rebellion, Meraki, Wild Woman Do, and Yogi Approved. All of my work is freelance and I am polyamorous with my voice. 

RF: What’s one of the greatest compliments you’ve ever received?

JR: A woman in her fifties once told me she wanted to be like me when she grew up.

RF: A moment you’ve been humbled?

JR: I remember the moment where my first article online had one share and I almost peed my pants in excitement. The first time one of my articles hit one million views, I was humbled.

RF: What’s next – what are you dreaming about doing and creating?

JR: Self publishing my first book of poetry. Writing the book and film script of my journey in finding my father five years ago. Opening and creating an artist residency in Costa Rica, with a yoga instructor, recording studio, community garden, surf racks, a chef for cooking lessons — if you like cooking — and a chef to cook for you if you don’t. That’s a big time dream of mine. A white cafe with twenty foot ceilings, orange pink and red pillows, freshly squeezed orange juice, trees growing inside, stained glass. 

RF: Is there a motto, mantra, life philosophy or raison-de-etre that you live by?

 JR: “What other people think of you, is none of your business.” ~Paul Cohelo