Naomi Woddis Speaks of Poetry, Photography & Chronic Illnesses



Naomi Woddis, whose work has appeared in the most recent issue of Luxiders Magazine, shared with us how her mental and physical conditions have seeped into her work; sparking conversations about these matters. Meet her here.


Writer, photographer and podcaster Naomi Woddis explores dialogues around mental health and chronic invisible illness through a mix of creative formats. Her relation to storytelling evokes the multiplicity of voices and perspectives that constantly redefine human expression and the way they can empower narratives that have been long disregarded. Her work, that has appeared in several publications, radio stations and exhibitions such as ‘Seasons’ at the Oval House Theatre, challenges stigma around disability narratives by sharing her personal experience dealing with invisible illnesses and forging a space of inclusion aimed at discussing similar experiences.


Your work is all about poetry: images, words, personal stories. What brought you to work around poetry? 

As a younger person reading poetry I looked for an emotional resonance, something that could help me understand my inner world. Now many years later, there's a much wider choice of really stunning poetry being published and performed. This multiplicity of voices and perspectives means that poetry is in a constant state of flux and redefinition which is a wondrous thing to witness, and be part of.


What's poetry a catharsis for? 

This is a tough one. I think allowing one's words to spill out on to the page can be very liberating. However I am always a bit suspicious of emotional catharsis just for its own sake. I have an analytical nature and want to familiarise myself with the source and the context. As well as witnessing the intensity of feeling, that raw embodied emotion can provide the spark for a fine piece of writing but is not the end product. By a long shot.


How did you end up adding podcasts to your work scope?

Over a decade ago I was invited to do a show on a community radio station, Reel Rebels Radio. The show was called 'The Conversational' and broadcast for a couple of years until I became ill with Lyme Disease and wasn't well enough to continue. My health improved enough over the last few years to get in touch with the station again and pitch the idea for 'The Two of Us'. They loved the idea so now the show airs every Tuesday at 7pm and is also available on podcast. Alba Frederick (my co host) and I interview creative people from all disciplines about their work and how it relates to mental health. All of our guests have been extremely generous in what they have shared about themselves—the conversations are intimate, inspiring and, I'd like to think, hopeful. 


Your bio says that your work aims at opening conversations about mental health and chronic invisible illness; we live in a world where they exist everywhere yet what we hear from it is very little. How do you think your work has contributed in these conversations? 

That's a big question ! A great deal of my work stems from personal experience, whether it's a photographic project about my life as a disabled care-giver or on the podcast sharing my own struggles with mental health. I hope in my small way I have both lessened the stigma and de-mystified what being disabled by chronic illness  looks and feels like. The last 10 years have been incredibly challenging for me both physically and emotionally. I've been very fortunate in connecting with many other disabled artists and felt connected to a community of like-minded (and like-hearted) souls especially through the Arts and Health Hub. The most valuable thing that I've learnt during this time is that so often living in a disabled body is implicitly political: for me it meant giving up ideas of being able to work full time and support myself financially. I had to find a way of re-evaluating my life and myself that wasn't based on my income or my professional status. This journey is still on-going. 


‘Poetry Mosaic’ is the unification of responses submitted by different people combined with your own work, edited by you. Who are the respondents? And what's your aim with extracting and combining different lines in a final poem?

Poetry Mosaic is an archived project but one I was and still am very proud of. The premise of Poetry Mosiac is really simple: I would post three questions on the site and ask for short replies which I would then edit in to a poem. It was in the days when I still on facebook and I would post a link to the questions there and also send them off to my mailing list. Because I was using the blog format it was possible to post the questions, answers, the resulting poem and the comments in response to it, hence mosaic ! I loved the collaborative nature of it and that it brought out the poetry in none-poetic language. 


Naomi Woddis captured the portrait of poet Rogier Robinson for an interview that appears in the Luxiders Magazine issue 5.

*All images courtesy of Naomi Woddis



   +  Words: Alejandra Espinosa, Luxiders Magazine Editor

Liberal Arts graduate | Berlin-based writer

Connect with her on LinkedIn or Instagram (@sincosmostura)