The following is an interview with Monica Prince regarding the recent release of her new choreopoem, Roadmap, through the Sante Fe Writers Project. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Prince about her creative process in bringing the story and characters to life, what she hopes that readers will take away from the story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of Roadmap! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Monica Prince: Roadmap focuses on a young Black man named Dorian who is plucked from his regular timeline by an omniscient muse named The Novelist to discover if nature or nurture will guarantee his most likely cause of death, which according to the CDC, will be homicide. I wrote this choreopoem because I wanted to process the vicarious grief of the Black community that resurfaces when another one of us is murdered for no reason. My little brother is a Black man who’s spent most of his life trying to avoid the criminal justice system, and I wanted to highlight what that fear does to a family, does to a couple, does to a child. I plucked Dorian from my last choreopoem, How to Exterminate the Black Woman (published by [PANK]Books in 2020), and formed a universe where he lives. There are Black people in the future, and I wanted to emphasize that on stage.
BD: The project deftly combines dancing, music, and comedy to bring this powerful story to life. What can you share with us about your creative process in weaving these elements together, and what have been some of your creative influences?
MP: Roadmap is a choreopoem—a choregraphed series of poems that blends dance, music, art, parkour, yoga, voice overs, and other performance media together and thrown on stage like a play. It was created by Ntozake Shange in 1975 with her original choreopoem, For colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf. I’ve been a scholar and writer of choreopoems since I was twenty years old, so when I want to tell any kind of story, my instinct is to use the choreopoem form. I’m a performance poet, and I see every poem I write in my head—how it will be performed, what the performer will wear or look like, how they will move on the stage, etc. When I started writing Roadmap, the only real image I had in my head was a Black man in a red t-shirt on a stage with his hands in the air.
As a Black woman living in America, one of my many coping skills when it comes to grief or helplessness is humor. There’s even a line in the show that says, “If my people did not learn to laugh, they would burn this world to the ground.” I have to laugh, I have to offer joy, I have to offer pleasure and comfort and rest on a stage so riddled with blood and corpses.
I created a video series called Writing Unalone: Open Literary Love Letters as a way to celebrate all the creative influences on this choreopoem. From family members to CSI: Miami to Dr. Michelle Alexander, I’m trying to cultivate gratitude for all the people, places, and experiences that helped me make my grief tangible. It seems every day someone or something is trying to make life less pleasurable or safe or equal—SCOTUS being the most recent—and I needed something good in my literary world.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Roadmap’s story may connect with and impact readers?
MP: When I first read For colored girls… by Ntozake Shange, I cried for two hours. I’d never read anything that featured me—a Black girl unloved by the world. And Shange did it not just with words in African American Vernacular English, but with dance, music, and color. I was blown away, and I knew I needed to carry on this legacy on stage.
I believe the people who read this choreopoem will connect with it beyond just recognizing the story of a Black man trying not to die. Within the show, there are statistics, facts, and evidence that take the story from the fictional world to our reality. We get desensitized to violence and assault, but watching it happen on stage then hearing the facts that back it up—like how one in three women murder victims and one in twenty men murder victims are killed by their partners—changes one’s reaction to the violence.
With Roadmap, readers will experience a modern choreopoem, a mostly unknown genre that blends theatre with poetry, dance, and music. This book will give them a chance to experience a performance in their minds, making them eager to learn more about the genre and its capabilities. Additionally, I hope readers will gain informed, emotional, and empathetic insight into the lived experience of young American Black men who grow up not expecting to grow old due to the institutional racism that declares them threats. They will also enter the emotions of the people who love these Black men—their families, their beloveds, their children—knowing someone will try to murder them one day. This will allow non-white readers to feel seen and understood, while white readers will hopefully gain a sense of urgency to protect this hunted population. Finally, I want readers to grieve the senseless loss of life due to racism and hatred in this country, while recognizing the space to heal these wounds by acting against those who seek to exterminate their friends, neighbors, colleagues, lovers, and family members.
BD: What makes the Sante Fe Writers Project the perfect home for the choreopoem?
MP: SFWP is an independent publisher with global distribution that has a reputation of signing multi-million-dollar movie and TV deals for their titles, as well as championing their writers nonstop. Unlike a vanity or a hybrid press (which requires the authors to pay for part of the publishing costs), SFWP invests thousands of dollars into the process—providing a developmental editor, copyeditors, cover and layout designers, and an extensive support system for using social media to promote the authors. I’ve been involved with SFWP on a smaller scale—working with the online literary journal and the annual contest—and I was honored to have my work chosen to join the ranks of amazing stars such as Christopher Gonzalez, Elizabeth Gonzalez James, and Adrienne Christian.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
MP: I’m currently working on two choreopoems—one about reproductive anxiety and another about pleasure after sexual violence (I’ve had a preoccupation with these themes ever since Roe v. Wade was overturned.), and a collection of new and selected poems titled Body as Placeholder for God. More pressingly, I’m working on my memoir titled Cures for Last Night’s Leftovers: A Memoir of Gin and Polyamory. This book features my signature gin recipe and explores how polyamory has shaped my adult understanding of love and relationships. I’m very excited about getting this into the world in the next few years!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Roadmap and your other work?
MP: The best way to follow my work is to follow me on social media!
(Facebook: @MonicaPrinceChoreopoet; Instagram: @poetic_moni; Twitter: @poetic_moni; YouTube: @MonicaPrince)
My website, www.monicaprince.com, has all my publications, links to my books, and information about how to stage any of my choreopoems.