Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Biannca Lynne Spriggs, March 15, 2018

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:01:21 - Introduction / Personal background

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Partial Transcript: Okay, well we're about to get started. Uh, tell you what, uh, what I'm gonna do is, um, ask you some preliminary questions first that I ask everybody and then I'm gonna get into what we're gonna be talking about specifically, okay?

Segment Synopsis: Biannca Lynne Spriggs is introduced. She was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but considers herself a Kentuckian regardless of the many places she lived growing up. She talks about the different social circumstances between Ohio and Kentucky, such as the lack of southern hospitality and the stronger sense of overtly racist attitudes in Ohio. Spriggs also talks about working as an English professor at Ohio University and how she has issues with students not acknowledging her credentials.

Keywords: Birthplace; Connections; Credentials; Differences; English professors; Growing up; Invasiveness; Language; Lineage; Literature; Milwaukee (Wis.); Overt racism; Poetry; Racist attitudes; Regions; Respect; Roots; Southern hospitality; Titles; White men; White women; bell hooks

Subjects: African American--Education (Higher); African Americans--Appalachian region; Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs.; Appalachian Region.; Athens (Ohio); College students--Attitudes.; College students.; College teachers, Black; Education--Kentucky; Educators; Florida.; Kentucky.; Lexington (Ky.); Middle west.; Ohio University; Racism.; Southerners; Wisconsin.; Women in higher education.; Women--Education (Higher)

GPS: Milwaukee (Wis.)
Map Coordinates: 43.05, -87.95
GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
GPS: Kentucky.
Map Coordinates: 37.5347, -85.3021
GPS: Wisconsin.
Map Coordinates: 44.6243, -89.9941
GPS: Florida.
Map Coordinates: 28.6305, -82.4497
GPS: Athens (Ohio)
Map Coordinates: 39.329167, -82.096111
GPS: Ohio University
Map Coordinates: 39.324, -82.102
00:08:39 - Identifying as a Kentucky writer

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, one thing I wanted to ask you is how do you identify as a writer?

Segment Synopsis: Spriggs talks about how she identifies as a writer. She explains that she considers herself a Kentucky writer even though she's not exactly sure what that means to her. She talks about how Kentucky writers are separate from southern writers because of unique experiences and struggles and what she describes as an unadorned and complex voice. She says that she also considers herself a Kentucky writer because her voice has been shaped by Kentucky writers. Spriggs talks about the voices that shaped hers, and her discovery of Black poetry in real time. She also talks about an experience where she was inspired by Maya Angelou to write and read more poetry and how entering a poetry contest was the start of her journey as a writer.

Keywords: Ancestral; Artistic voice; Beginning; Black Kentucky poets; Black Kentucky writers; Black poetry; Black women writers; Colleges; Complex; Complexities; Contact; Formative; Gender; Identifying; Kentucky authors; Kentucky voices; Kentucky writers; Land; Local poetry; Maya Angelou; Memoirs; Poetry competitions; Poets; Race; Reading; Real time; Unadorned voice

Subjects: African American authors.; African American women.; African Americans--Appalachian region; African Americans--Southern states.; Appalachian Region.; Art.; Authors.; College students, Black; Culture.; Gender.; Identity; Kentucky.; Lexington (Ky.); Minority authors.; Race.; Struggle.; Transylvania University.; Writing.

00:15:50 - Multiple artistic identities

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, you've got an interesting story especially, uh, you know, I've been reading your work. I've got a copy of your work.

Segment Synopsis: Spriggs talks about her many artistic identities and outlets such as editing, film making, performance art, and visual art. Spriggs explains that these multiple identities all serve the same purpose, which is storytelling. She says that she has always been willing to learn new things, experiment, take risks, and fall flat on her face. She doesn't view her artistic identities as separate but as one larger entity in which she is the channel for storytelling.

Keywords: Art minors; Artistic gifts; Artistic vehicles; Collaboration; Collaborators; Collection of art; End results; Experimentation; Film; Filmmakers; Filmmaking; Identities; Multiple identities; Parts; Professionals; Stories; Story; Taking risks; Theater; Vision; Visual art; Visual artists

Subjects: Art & arts; Art.; Artists.; College majors.; Creative ability; Culture.; Drawing.; Finance.; Kentucky.; Learning.; Motion picture authorship.; Performance art.; Poetry.; Storytelling.; Women artists, Black

00:19:50 - Literary lineage

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Partial Transcript: So, I'm backing up just a little bit. Who would you consider part of your literary lineage?

Segment Synopsis: Spriggs talks about who she believes is part of her "literary lineage" or who she feels close to with her storytelling. She explains that writers like Octavia Butler and Maya Angelou influenced her voice while speculative literature such as fairy tales, Greek mythology, and folklore is what she grew up reading. Spriggs also talks about finding her lineage for her other forms of artistic media such as filmmaking, visual art, performance art, and theater.

Keywords: Academia; Affrilachian writers; Ancestral; Artistic identities; Audiences; Aunts; Black Arts Movement; Black Kentucky authors; Black Kentucky writers; Black women; Black women writers; Conversations; Cousins; Family; Female ministers; Kentucky writers; Lineage; Literary lineage; Maya Angelou; Ministers; Models; Multiple identities; Octavia Butler; Patricia Smith; Professional writers; Speculative fiction; Traditions; Uncles

Subjects: African Americans--Appalachian Region; Artists.; Authors.; Challenges; Creative ability; Fairy tales; Film-making (Motion pictures); Folklore; Heredity; Identity; Multi media (Art); Mythology, Greek; Short films.; Storytelling.; University of Kentucky; Woman, Black.; Workshops.

00:25:00 - Incorporating creativity into academia

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Partial Transcript: Unlike you I, I stepped out of it a little bit.

Segment Synopsis: Spriggs talks about mixing creativity and criticism in a hybrid project. She explains that she uses exodus politics to portray Black female leads in order to challenge the allegory of charismatic white men being the one who leads the masses to the Promised Land. She criticizes female positioning in storytelling in her project and explains that she really had to fight to get her degree.

Keywords: Academia; Addressing gaps; Afro-futurism; Black main characters; Black novelists; Criticism; Emotional analysis; Exodus narratives; Exodus politics; Female characters; Female leads; Hybrid projects; Marginalized; Narratives; Octavia Butler; Positioning of women; Shifting; University of Kentucky

Subjects: African American--Appalachian Region; Allegory.; Black people--Race identity; Books.; Creative ability.; Misogyny.; Novelists.; Storytelling.; Women, Black

00:30:20 - Building upon other writers

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Partial Transcript: Okay. I--one of the questions that I wrote down was, uh, whose literary work, uh, that you see yourself building upon either as a foremother or a forefather.

Segment Synopsis: Spriggs talks about 'standing on the shoulders' of her literary foremothers and forefathers, and how they influence her writing and storytelling. She explains that her narratives are beginning to leave the realm of poetry and evolve into longer essays and stories of fiction. She talks about the influence of the science fiction work of Octavia Butler, and using elements of magic and mysticism in her stories. She talks about the multi-consciousness of Black women and how she related to other Black female characters while she was growing up, which influences her writing today. She explains that she had limited experiences with Black culture growing up so she was mostly used to the conventions of storytelling and was surprised when she read Octavia Butler or listened to Black musicians such as Nina Simone.

Keywords: African American writers; Ancestors; Black culture; Bob Marley; Books; Churches; Connection; Consciousness; Conventions; Creating; Embodiments; Fearless; Fluency; Forefathers; Gaps; Generations; Hollywood; Investigations; Language; Magical; Minority writers; Mystical; Nina Simone; Octavia Butler; Painting; Pauline Hopkins; Poems; Publishing; Reading; Relation; Residue; Shapeshifters; Silence; Stories; Survival; Unconventional; Understanding; Unknown; Vibrant; Video poems; Virginia Hamilton; Vocabulary; Women writers; Writing

Subjects: African American authors.; African Americans--Appalachian Region; Authors.; Creative ability.; Essays.; Fiction.; Foremothers; Literature.; Lynching.; Minority authors.; Music; Narratives.; Poetry.; Portraits.; Storytelling.; Suburbs.; Women artists, Black; Women authors; Women writers; Women, Black.; Writing.

00:39:38 - Using natural and mystic images in storytelling

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Partial Transcript: Now you use a lot of, uh, in your work you use a lot of natural images, but also combined with a lot of kind of mystic, mystical kind of images as, as well.

Segment Synopsis: Spriggs talks about her use of natural and mystical imagery in her storytelling and where she gets her ideas from. She tells a story about moving to Athens, Ohio and learning about the rechanneling of the Hocking River due to the large flooding events that happened in the early 20th century. Spriggs talks about river gods and how she believes people of color tend to let nature be as it is rather than get involved with changing the environment.

Keywords: Army; Black people; Campus; Deities; Engineers; Female authors; Flooding; Folks; Historical; Images; Land; Land lock; Mentality; Modern; Natural; Place; Planet Earth; Presidents; Rain; Readings; Rechanneling; Reconstruction; Repressed; Rivers; Trees; Unique

Subjects: African Americans--Appalachian Region; Ancestors; Athens (Ohio); Authors.; Creative ability; Fairy tales.; Fiction.; Floods; Folk tales.; Gods; Hocking River (Ohio); Hocking River Watershed (Ohio); Imagination.; Kentucky.; Literature.; Mystic; Mystic & fiction; Mythology.; Ohio.; Poetry.; Storytelling.; Teaching diversity; Water.; Women artists, Black; Women, Black; Writing.

00:45:23 - Interest in reading tarot cards

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Partial Transcript: So talk to me about how this--how the tarot plays a part of this. Does that show up in your, in your work as well?

Segment Synopsis: Spriggs talks about her interest in tarot card reading and divination and how this shows up in her storytelling. She explains that she discovered tarot when she was going through a divorce and was looking for answers. Although tarot was seen as taboo and demonic in the spaces she grew up in, she realized that it was its own language similar to the way her poetry is. She explains that she does readings for people and has learned more about people from doing tarot. She also talks about some new Black Appalachian poets in Kentucky.

Keywords: Answers; Athena; Bridge; Card readers; Character; Churches; Clairvoyance; Comfort; Concerns; Connection; Crown chakra; Demonic; Evangelical; Family; Field work; High priestess; Intuition; Language; Liberation; Manifestation; Medusa; Narratives; Nests; Organized religion; Patterns; Poems; Projects; Public; Questions; Reading; Research; Security; Stigma; Stories; Therapy; Traditions; Underworld; Voodoo

Subjects: Acculturation.; African American authors.; African Americans--Appalachian Region; African Americans.; Artists.; Card games.; Chakra (Hinduism); Divination.; Divorce.; Hegemony.; Italian Renaissance (1330-1550) (Spark Publishing); Liberty; Minority authors.; Performance art.; Poetry.; Psychic ability.; Storytelling.; Taboo.; Tarot cards.; Tarot.; Vodou; Women, Black; Women.

00:59:53 - Connection to land

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Partial Transcript: Now let's talk about the thing, uh, that we haven't talked about yet and that's homeplace.

Segment Synopsis: Spriggs talks about where she feels the most at home. She explains that she has a "winding path" as far as places she has lived. She explains that even though she grew up in Lexington she feels the most like herself in Appalachia because she has roots there. She talks about the philosophical idea that even though humans are mobile and aren't grounded into the Earth, they are still very much a part of the earth and she feels a deep connection with mountains and water.

Keywords: Allen Watts; Communication; Connection; Home; Home place; Illusion; Indoors; Learning; Mobile; Mountains; Moving; Navigating; Outdoors; Problematic; Roots; Separation; Silence; Skin; Soil; Solitude; Trees

Subjects: Appalachian Region.; Athens (Ohio); Culture.; Growth.; Kentucky.; Planet earth; Racially mixed people; Red River Gorge (Ky.); Tennessee.; Virgo; Water.

01:06:45 - Advice to younger writers

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Partial Transcript: What would you say to someone that might be, you know, just like you, you know, as a teenager?

Segment Synopsis: Spriggs gives her advice to young writers. She says to enjoy writing and not to focus on outcomes or the identity of being a writer.

Keywords: Enjoyment; Identity; Inspiration; Outcomes; Teenagers; Weirdness; Writers; Young people

Subjects: Authors; College students; Poetry.; Poets.; Publications; Writing.

01:08:09 - Importance of a Black literary lineage

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Partial Transcript: Last question, and this is, uh, how I close all of them which just kind of brings it around full circle to the lineage.

Segment Synopsis: Spriggs talks about what she thinks is the significance of having a Black literary lineage in Kentucky. She explains that it's important for stories to be heard in order to get rid of the long culture of silence and erasure of Black voices. She says that the time for exclusion is over and in order to experience real social changes there needs to be large scale personal changes. She says that storytelling through literature is how Black voices will be heard.

Keywords: Affrilachian poetry; African American writers; Black people; Black voices; Black writers; Change; Connections; Exclusivity; Inclusiveness; Liberation; Lineage; Literary lineage; Marginalized; Minority writers; Oppressed; Personal change; Revelations; Significance; Stories; Vehicles; Voices

Subjects: African American authors.; African Americans; African Americans--Appalachian Region; Artists, Black.; Authors; Authors.; Literature.; Minority authors.; Oppression; Poetry; Social change.; Storytelling.; Visibility.; Writing.