Los Angeles-based multimedia artist and writer Nicolette Daskalakis bares her heart and humor in her newest collection of poetry, Portrait of Your Ex Assembling Furniture, available for pre-order before its release on September 24. The book promises to echo the woes and wonders of "anyone who's ever ran into their ex, fallen in love at the grocery store, or gone on a few too many first dates." While we eagerly await its release, we chatted with Nicolette about her writing, how she balances making visual art with poetry, and what she's learned along her journey through creating.
Q: First, share a little bit about your background.
Nicolette: Since my mother was a collage and sculpture artist, I grew up in an environment that encouraged creativity in any artistic medium. I fell in love with photography, poetry, fashion, music…anything that allowed me to express myself in a visual or auditory way. I did my undergraduate studies at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where I received a BA in Film & TV production and a minor in Intermedia Arts. For me, film felt like the perfect way to combine every art form I loved into one.
After graduating, I worked as a freelance production designer and did a lot of my own writing and short films on the side. I ended up working for BuzzFeed, creating short beauty, style, and craft videos, and eventually built up a large enough portfolio to transition into directing and shooting digital content as a freelancer. Working as a freelancer has granted me more control over my schedule and allowed me to pursue both poetry and film simultaneously. I’m working on something every single day. Honestly, the only difference is whether or not someone’s paying me for it.
Looking at your portfolio, you've dabbled in quite a bit of everything, from photography to production design to creative writing. What do you think threads all your work together?
I’m of the mindset that the idea comes first and the medium comes second. Sometimes the best way to express an idea is through poetry, other times it’s photography or music. I love the freedom and excitement of not containing myself to a single art form. Regardless of the tools I’m using, I often find myself exploring themes of intimacy, sexuality/gender, and societal expectations, often through a lens of magical realism or humor.
As I’ve grown as an artist, it’s been fascinating to discover commonalities and patterns when working in different genres. For example, where I choose to break up a line of poetry and where I choose to have silence in a film have become one in the same to me. It’s as if they are the same words, just translated into another language.
Portrait of Your Ex Assembling Furniture is your third book of poetry (the other two are entitled because you're now banging a French girl and All The Boys I Never Kissed). How do you feel you've grown as a writer?
Looking back at my first and second book is like reading a diary from that point of my life (except it’s public and unalterable... yikes!). I wrote the first book alone in my bedroom, without a wide knowledge of poetic form, structure, or tools. As I began writing this latest book, I took it upon myself to really explore and study poetry from a more “academic” standpoint. I felt like I had established the aesthetic and tone of the series with the first book, but I also had a lot of room to grow as a writer. As I started reading the works of both historical and contemporary poets, I began to gain a toolkit of sorts. It opened up so many more doors for play and experimentation with how I could make my work more rich and layered.
Your writings feel very raw and honest. Do you ever feel vulnerable releasing them into the world?
Surprisingly, no. My books are probably 75% truth and 25% fiction. For me, that 25% leaves so much room for not only creative license but also the confidence to write about more vulnerable emotions. I always try to write as if no one else will see it, because I think the best art comes from not filtering yourself. I hope people read these poems and find parts of themselves they were afraid to share, that they realize those parts are valid and real.
We gotta ask, have your exes read any of your poems about them... what is that like?
Poets tend to kiss and tell. I try to do it in a disassembled way so that only someone who has seen the full piece can recognize it from its parts. I’ve never blatantly told anyone, “This poem is about you," but I’ve had people read them and realize it. At the launch for my second book, my partner at the time came up to me and said, “I learned a lot about myself tonight.” I think that sums up what most people say, that they saw a certain moment or experience through a different lens, through my lens. Jury’s still out on the third book though, so we’ll see if I have any exes at my door wielding pitchforks...
Finally, what are some lessons you've learned in your journey through art and creating?
Those are very meaningful lessons, Nicolette. We'll have to try out all your creative advice! ◆