I met Vicky while taking pictures for the Reckless Arts Collective’s open mic in Brampton.
What drew me to her was not only her poetry, but the way she used her voice in doing so. From that I invited her to work with me in the production of 2 of my films, She Waits and Closure.
We’ve grown close enough for me to refer to her as my friend and her story is definitely worth the read!
So I present you, Vicky Ro!
What were your early inspirations?
Wow! My early inspirations in poetry?
Like your early inspirations in art?
It’s a weird story. In the first grade, my teacher inspired us to read a lot. She had reading awards when you read all these books. And you get awards for reading. When you get to like 50 or 100 or 150, you get a really big awards covered with stickers. And you get to go to the principal’s office and you get a cookie or a toy or something like that.
150 books in the first grade?
Oh no! I read like maybe… First grade I probably got to the 400 mark.
Yeah, but they were like little kids books.
But you were like 6 years old!
Right! And even though they were books meant for my grade level, we were taking that much reading. Plus we were reading at home. My parents were big on reading as well. They would read to us every night until we could read to them. And I would always bring like 3… We were allowed to bring one book each but I would bring like 3-4 books. And my mom would say to bring one because my 2 brothers had to bring books too. I was reading a lot at an early age. And the same teacher who inspired me to read so much. She used to have poems and songs that she had in a book when we had circle time which I used to enjoy a lot. Sorry… This speeds forward. Now it’s Halloween time. We had to write about Halloween. My family didn’t celebrate Halloween. I didn’t know about Halloween. I was not allowed to celebrate. But I knew what it involved. Ghost, ghouls…
And candy! I wrote about it, but it came out like a rhyme. Like a poem and I’m 6. (laughter). I remember the poem verbatim. I said it like this, in my head too. Ghost and mummies and witches too. I love ghost cause they scare you. Period. (laughter)
When she saw that, her mind was blown. I didn’t get the big deal. I watch Sesame Street, this ain’t nothing. She thought it was such a big deal that she called my parents and told them that I was rhyming and writing my own poem with no prompt and by myself. She showed them. Back then, I didn’t see it as a big deal. I just picked it up. And that was my introduction to poetry. That’s my earliest inspiration to poetry. Very long answer, but… You’re going to have shorten this.
(laughter) What pushed you to take poetry professionally?
I’m still having a hard time accepting that term, “professionally”.
But you are a professional.
I guess I am. (laughter). Once you start getting paid for it.
To be honest, at the end of the day, if I hired you to do poetry for 2 hours for $5…
Would you do it?
But if I said, give me your rate for 10 poems?
Yeah, ok! All right! I’m a professional!
So let me switch my question. Because it reminded me of my first published novel, but I would not call myself a writer.
To me, because I was not on the NY Times best seller’s list, I did not get any awards. I just published a novel.
But you published it. It’s a physical manifestation of your work. That’s different! I feel that if I wrote a book, please believe that yes… I am… A professional… Author poet!
I feel that when you have not reached a certain point in your career yet, you don’t fully take on the title of professional.
Which leads me to this question… What is it that you feel you have not accomplished to not call yourself a professional?
Similarly to you, when I see poets who I consider to be professionals, they are doing so much with their gifts. They’re running workshops… Teaching this gift. One thing I remember… It was with regards to dance… But I applied it to everything in my life. She said that until you’ve reached the point or the place where you can teach what you know to somebody and break it down to the simplest form where they can understand it and absorb it, then you are not a pro. One thing that I could do was choreograph, but it was hard to teach. I feel like I’m still on that journey of knowing how to explain what I do to its very essence. I know how it comes out and my process. And I apply it to everything else. There’s people teaching poetry, but because I’m not doing those things or because I’m not able to do that… Because I’m not at a place where I could dumb it down... Plus I feel like I have not put enough hours into my craft because I’ve taken so many breaks and not because I want to take breaks. Cause writer’s block is a real thing…
Have you never had writer’s block?
When it comes down to writer’s block, I believe that you’re not trusting the words. You know what you want to write…
I don’t! I don’t know what I want to write when I had writer’s block.
When I have writer’s block, I know what is the story I want to write, but I don’t trust the words.
I think there’s a difference between that and writer’s block then. I feel like you’re really blocked up. It’s lyrical constipation and that’s why I leave it. So yeah… I feel like I’ve taken a lot of breaks. I feel like I’m in and out of the game like double dutch. I just started getting back into it… I have moments of seriousness when it comes to my performance and my writing. What I’ve found now that I’ve entered this season, I’m in a better place internally. People around me have impacted the way I’m able to create. I was in a relationship for 3 years and there were definitely things that were counter productive in that relationship. For creatives, it’s important that you have a partner who supports what you’re doing. You don’t have to be the biggest lover of poetry, but you have to love the fact that I do it and you have to support the fact that I do it. And you should ask me about it. Especially when you see that I’m not doing it. It should raise red flags for you. So I feel that because I didn’t get that support, it impacted my ability to create. The entire 3 years that I was in that relationship, I barely wrote. And I could count on one hand how many times I performed during that time. He saw me perform once in our entire relationship. And it was a fluke.
You had a relationship that was not supportive with regards to your creativity… What are qualities you’re looking for in a partner?
Definitely someone who’s supportive with regards to my process. Who can give me space and time when creating. Someone who knows when to come near. I have moments when I doubt the process. Somebody who cares so much about my art that they’ll remind me of who I am. Someone who’s honest and can give constructive criticism. I am open to constructive criticism. Sometimes it stinks…
I think it’s still important to have honest and constructive criticism. Compassion is a huge thing. Someone who’s compassionate and can provide empathy. And I love humor. I love to laugh. Someone who I can be silly with and laugh with. And romantic. I’m a hopeless romantic.
With regards to the pandemic, dating has not gotten any easier. Many platforms are out there for dating. Have you used any of the platforms? And where have you had your most success?
I recommend none! Because none of them work for me anyways! (laughter). I only tried one and it didn’t work out for me and it was such a bad experience. Nothing was fruitful from that particular app. I’m not going to call them out.
Call out the app! Shoot!
Damn it! It was Bumble! And it did not work for me at all. For me, meeting people in real life is the better way. And it was always through friends and stuff. There was always a mutual person between me and that person. Or I’ve known the person for a while and we tried a ting.
What does your ideal professional artistic condition looks like to you?
It looks like enough time to create whatever it is that I want.
That’s not what I meant… What is your profession at this point? Where do you see it going in 5 years?
I’m a content creator. I’m not just creating poetry, but I’m also creating visuals to back it up. I’m creating visuals for companies that want to have that element of soul, that element of poetic beauty in their… Whether in their ads or their brand. I want my art to resonate so much that they want it to represent their brand. My biggest dream is that I always wanted to be published. My dreams since I was younger is that I wanted to be a children author. I love audio books, but I’m a big visual person. I would love to create my own visuals like Beyonce’s visual albums. But yeah, I think it would be dope to create content. The reason why it’s not an aspiration right now because while it’s not paying it’s costing me.
With regards to being a content creator, all of last year, you came up with Vicky’s Lip-sync Sundays. Because we’re in a pandemic, folks ventured to Instagram for content and you managed to amass a following. What pushed you to create your first lip-sync video?
Just want to put this on record. I had plans for lip-sync Sundays from before the pandemic kicked in. This was planned since January, February. I started the first Sunday in March. And then I followed up the following week for International Women’s Day which was a week before the pandemic really locked in. But because we were locked down and there was nothing else to do, I definitely had more time to mind how I wanted to go about recording it. I played with outfits and makeups and wigs trying to look as close as possible to the person I wanted to represent. And people who were watching, were really appreciating it. And then I started playing with clips… Splicing my footage. And I started to feel real good about myself. And that’s when I realized that I was learning a whole other skill in editing. Even though it was just on my phone, but it was still a skill.
Going back to the poetry, we’ve talked about content creating, but I want to get back to the origin. What is your most favorite line you’ve ever written?
(laughter). That’s a hard one.
Yeah it is!
You’re not going to like the next one then.
I wrote some bars man!
(laughter) I wrote some bars! That’s a hard question, Rob.
Let me make it easier. What is your favorite piece?
That’s hard too. Um… One of my favorite pieces…
Top 5… I know it’s more of a fun piece, but Thick Rich Royalty aka Thicker Than A Snicker…
Hey! That’s a crowd favorite!
That’s one of my faves!
Yeah! Cause I mean, the way you sway as you say it…
It’s more of a flow than a piece.
Yeah, but you get the crowd participation too.
Yeah, but I like it. And it’s identifiable too. Especially with my thick women out there. They feel nice! (laughter).
My very first piece that I wrote was my vagina monologue called Handle Me and that is also a crowd favorite. I think it means more to me now as a 34 year old woman who has embraced herself and her sensuality versus the 21 year old who wrote it and thought she knew all the things. It’s the same words but they hit different for me. So I really love that poem even more now than when I wrote it. Another piece I really love is History or Know Your History. It’s a black history piece. I wrote that for a speech class in university. Those are definitely 3 of my tops… Uh… Attention! How could I forget? Attention! And there’s a lot of favorite bars in that poem. I was actually thinking of them when you asked me about it. And I think Half Love. It’s a short poem, but I really like it.
If you had to give an advice to a young woman or young man, following in your footsteps, what would you tell them?
Always speak your truth! Authenticity is so much more important than creating. We know, as humans, when something inauthentic. Be true to yourself. Be true to your art. And don’t let anyone steer you away from what you’re really trying to do. That would be my advice. Do what you’re doing and I give that advice. Everyone has their light in the world to shine. Everyone shines differently and that’s ok. It’s ok to just be you in the most authentic way.
If you could have an evening conversation with anyone, dead or alive… Who would it be and why?
My grandmother. My maternal grandmother. She passed away in 2011. I found out afterwards… My mom shared with me that my grandmother used to perform as well. Before she had all of her kids. She used to sing and perform poetry on stages. Beautiful, tall, dark skin, Guyanese woman. I see her in my mind right now. I didn’t get to see any of that or speak to her about any of that personally. I would just love to talk to her about that. I’d like to hear her recite her poetry. I’d like to see her perform… See how she gets when performs. The light in her eye… Is it the same as mine? I got 55 first cousins and I’m the only one that I know who’s taken dance the way I do and who loves the stage the way I do. And I feel like that is directly from her. And I never got the opportunity to talk to her about these things when she was alive, and she was no longer doing it because she gave her life to the lord. And this came from somewhere and I believe it was directly from her.