Thirty West collaborated with the Lehigh Valley area to create a chapbook called, Morning Coffee. Now, after the carafes have been emptied, we sat down with the group of creatives to talk about their newfound, and successful, publication…
Josh: Welcome to The Weekly Degree! Today, we have the individuals behind the “Chapbooks Without Limits” series. Tell everyone more about yourselves.
Yusuf: We are three college students! Marissa Pipp, Yusuf Zohny, and Justin Mendoza! Marissa—we just call her Pipp—did all the art for the poems, including a poem. Justin and I did all the poetry for the chap. We all have a passion for art and poetry and we felt like we had what it took to make our own chapbook. We worked on it for about a year and poured our hearts into this. We dedicated ourselves to doing the best work we possibly could. We agreed from the start to challenge ourselves throughout the bookmaking process; we wanted to be more complete poets and artists. We used this as a learning experience and we will be utilizing everything we learned from this experience for a forthcoming 2nd and 3rd chapbook!
Josh: That’s great! What inspired you to create this chapbook? Are there specific influencers in your work(s)?
Yusuf: We wanted to share our art and to get feedback from our friends and peers. Justin and I have been writing poetry for years and when we met Marissa—who has been practicing for seventeen years—we knew the stars were aligned. On the topic of influence, we really didn’t have any; we’re just driven and spontaneous.
Josh: I can see that. Justin was the first to approach me at a TWP reading and that’s what really started turning the gears. What’s your plan for the continuation of the series? Will each chap have different or reoccurring themes?
Justin: A lot of our first book had dark emotions and interpreting personal hardships, so the second will move into lighter themes and more upbeat poetry. We want to focus on doing things we haven’t before. We will probably keep the theme of food in our titles. The second chap, Lunch Break, is already in the works. We are doing this one with watercolor paintings as well, so it will be vivid and fresh.
Josh: Very interesting I’m looking forward to seeing it. So, how has the Lehigh Valley area enriched your creative side? What, if anything, would you improve?
Justin: The artistic community in the Lehigh Valley is incredibly supportive. We had so much help from local poets along the way, too. We all live right by the Cigar Factory Gallery and Coffee House Without Limits. Both are hubs for artists in the area to meet, brainstorm and perform. Because there is such a big poetry community here, it was easy to acquire positive reinforcement and support. If we could improve anything, we would really like to see more young artists and poets making it out to the open mic nights. New voices, new poetry, new art is what the community needs to grow and we hope to lead by example.
Josh: That’s quite noble of you all and I wish you the best of luck. Have you indulged in other poetry communities like Philadelphia or Central Jersey?
Marissa: We haven’t, however, Justin and Yusuf are attending Temple next semester. So, we are hoping to inject ourselves into the poetry and art communities there and all over Philadelphia. We know that some amazing artists have come from this area and we see this as another opportunity to continue learning and evolving.
Josh: I, being a Temple alum, highly recommend taking in the sights and sounds. It’s a diverse and stimulating university. Ok, last question! We ask this among our authors and we’ve always gotten different responses…if you could describe yourself/yourselves as a material, what would it be?
Justin: Mine would be cashmere because it's delicate and rare.
Marissa: I feel like silk represents comfort, luxury, softness. In a way, I see myself as comforting, I would consider what I have now in my life as a luxury, and I also see myself as a kind soft-hearted person.
Yusuf: And I would be aluminum. It’s shiny, versatile, and so useful.
Josh: Wonderful. Well, everyone, I’m glad to have followed-up on your project. Please, keep in touch with updates on the series.