Comment on this
interview with prolific contributor Sharmagne Leland-St
Tell us more about yourself.
S: I am a Native American from the Confederated Colville
Tribe of Nespelem, Washington. I am a former concert
performer. I play the tamboura which is an Eastern Indian
instrument made from a gourd with a very long neck and
sympathetic strings. Basically it is the Indian bass. We
had a band which was the original group called Orient
Express. Lowell George was in our band as well as Bruce
Langhorn and Peter Walker (Vanguard Records Rainy Day
Raga, and Second Poem to Karmela/Gypsies Are Important).
I am a former actress and I have just agreed to recreate
the role of Silver Indian in an upcoming tribe of the
60's rock musical Hair. I spend most of my waking hours
in the garden, either mine or someone else's. I have
created gardens all over the world.
Q: How long were you a
member of the now defunct Themestream? What made you
decide to write there?
S: I joined in early September 2000. After receiving an e
mail or instant message from Themestream writer called
Frank Millard. I would say I decided to publish for
exposure. Many of my poems are actually songs without
music. So there is always the possibility that someone
will come along who would like to collaborate and set
them to music. I did it for freedom of expression.
Have you ever had anything published and if so where?
S: So far, I have been published in a Native American
magazine Turtle Tracks. I was recently invited to perform
one of my poems "Promised Land" at the United
Nation's Dialogues on Civilisation Through Poetry. That
poem is now published on their web site. My Poem "I
Will Dance For You" is being included in The Silence
Within, an anthology scheduled to be published this
summer. It will also be included on a 3 disc album called
The Spoken Word. I have had poetry published in an e-zine
When Henry Mancini first read my poetry and songs he sent
them down to Nashville with his publishing company name
stamped all over them but nothing ever came of it. I am
now writing with Darby Slick who wrote one of the only
two hits the Jefferson Airplane recorded. He has recently
set music to my song lyrics "Jimmy's Song". We
are now collaborating on "Calico Apron," a
What or who has most inspired you to write?
S:I am inspired by many different things as well as moods
and people. My former beau and dear friend the late Paul
Rothchild was perhaps the most influential person in my
life as a writer. when I was a beginner, I would always
share my work with him because I respected his opinions.
After all he was at the time one of the top record
producers on the scene. One evening we had a disagreement
that turned into a heated argument about something or was
it someone! And in a fit of rage and anger I picked up my
typewriter and heaved it across the room.
It hit the wall and landed at his feet. As we both stood
there looking at it in shocked silence I realized it was
beyond repair and that made me really morose. I loved
that typewriter. I loved the sounds that it made as we
wrote. It was akin to sitting down at a finely tuned
piano or harpsichord. Composing note upon note. You know
when you write there is the sound that each word makes as
it falls against another word and there is also the sound
of silence in between the words. That typewriter had
those sounds down pat. It hummed, it purred, it sang my
words back to me. I was very distraught that I had just
killed my "writing partner." So I did what any
normal woman would have done in the same situation. I sat
down and began to weep.
The next day Paul presented me with a brand new electric
typewriter with a gift card enclosed apologizing for
making me so angry and adding "I respect your talent
as a writer so much that I would not want to be
responsible for stifling it." I would have to say
Richard Sylbert and Michael Butler were also instrumental
in my early writing as they evoked emotions in me that I
had never felt before and the only way to express them
was via pen and paper. (or Quill and Parchment!) Peter
Yarrow, from the folk singing group Peter, Paul, and
Mary, and I wrote together. That was a very inspiring
experience because it meant there was enough there for
him to want to set it to music and produce it on a record
for all the world to hear.
And lastly Pierre la Mure the French writer and artist
once said to me on the occasion of having heard
"Poetry of Lies" recited before an audience,
"You have poetry in your soul, ma petite." That
certainly made a very deep impression on me and was
perhaps the real start of my desire to write
How do you think you can improve as a writer?
S: I think I would improve as a writer just by writing
more. And by being fearless. When I wrote my poem "I
Said Coffee," I took a great chance. It was totally
different from anything I had ever written before and it
certainly went to places that made a few people feel very
uncomfortable -- judging from the "hate mail" I
received. On the other hand I got some incredibly
positive critique and realized I have hit a turning point
in my life as a writer. I can now take almost any
incident that happens in my life or on the outside and
romanticize it into a poem or short story or song.
Since I am auto-didactic another way I might improve as a
writer would be to take a class in writing at a junior
Who are some of your favorite writers?
S: Susan Power who wrote The Grass Dancer and a new novel
called War Bundles coming out soon. Barbara Kingsolver
author of Animal Dreams, The Bean Tree, and Pigs In
Heaven. I still like Kurt Vonnegut quite a bit especially
his early works such as Cat's Cradle. Ira levin is
incomparable. I have had a romance with Mildred Cram's
writings for many years now. She wrote Forever and was
one of the screen writers on the original film version of
An Affair To Remember.
Shirley Jackson was also a long time favorite. You may
remember her as the author of The Lottery one of the most
controversial short stories ever written and published in
The New Yorker magazine. Sadly she died very young but a
few years ago her children received a carton full of
cobwebbed files which were discovered in an old barn in
Vermont. They turned out to be original manuscripts and
some of her unpublished short stories. They have since
published them in a book of short stories called Just An
The late Richard Farina was one of my favorite poets. He
died so young....for a poet. So many unsung songs went to
the grave with him. Joy Harjo, T. S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath,
Charles Bukowski, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits
rank as only a few of my other favorite poets.
What besides writing stirs your creativity?
S: Painting. Henry Miller once said to me "To paint
is to love again" and I hadn't a clue what he meant
at the time. Then years later I began to paint water
colors and I got it immediately. I have also noticed that
once you start painting, things never look the same
again. Everything you see is through the artists eye.
Do you write for any other sites and if so which ones?
S: I recently gave permission to Poetik to copy any of my
already published Themestream works. I had a request for
"I Said Coffee" from eThis for the February
edition this year. They said it had exactly that quirky
twist they needed to round out the Valentine's Day issue.
I will publish it here at Quill and Parchment soon.
What are your goals for the future as a writer?
S: I am working on a screenplay and I have a children's
book which I wrote a few years ago that I have been
having trouble finding the right illustrator for..I don't
want to be assigned one by a publisher who may not see
the book as I do. One other dream is to publish a book of
my poetry which I would call Unsung Songs.
What is your favorite type of article to write?
S: Poetry and love songs. We used to call them
"emotional Band Aids" Because they seemed to
have come just after somebody had done somebody else
wrong. I like to write articles that might change
someone's life for the better. For instance A Secret From
My Garden. It was the first piece I published on line and
it has a little tag at the end which makes it almost a
sort of cautionary tale in itself. I will be publishing
it here at Quill and Parchment in the not too distant
Q: Any suggestions for
S: Keep a diary or a journal and copies of all personal
correspondence. You have no idea how many times I have
been reading an old diary or an old love letter when a
line jumped out at me willing itself to became a new poem
If you could go back in time is there anything you would
want to change?
S: Yes, I would tell those Pilgrims to get back on that
Q: Is there anything else
you would like to add?
S: The other thing that I would like to mention is that I
am working on a Native American cookbook. If in the
future Quill and Parchment publishes a recipe section I
will be sharing some of those recipes there.
Don't be afraid to lay your soul bare. It is a cleansing
experience. You don't have to share it but I feel it is a
necessity if you intend to become a great writer. You can
burn it or keep it for yourself but write it just to know
that you can do it.