“The best thing about your life is that it is constantly in a state of design,” Cleo Wade writes in her new book, Heart Talk. “This means you have, at all times, the power to redesign it. Make moves, allow shifts, smile more, do more, do less, say no, say yes—just remember, when it comes to your life, you are not only the artist but the masterpiece as well.”
Reading Wade’s poetry, which usually appears as handwritten verses, is like stepping into a warm bath, or tightly wrapping a soft blanket around you. It makes you feel incredibly good... comforted. Inspiring and empowering, her work has the ability to uplift you no matter what season of life you may be experiencing; it resonates.
Wade, who was born and raised in New Orleans, is an artist, poet, and storyteller now based in NYC. You may have seen her colorful poems circulating on the internet (she is a favorite on Instagram), watched her recent TEDxTalk, or attended an event at Chez Conversations, an arts collective she started with fellow creatives Mia Moretti, Kate Greer, Liza Voloshin, and Margot. Involved in both activism and the arts, Cleo’s presence radiates and is easily felt both on the page and through the screen.
Heart Talk is an extension of her art practice, a beautifully illustrated, balanced collection of over 120 therapeutic poems, mantras, and affirmations. It is something you can easily carry around and flip through whenever a bit of extra love is needed.
Below, we speak with Wade about Heart Talk, her greatest influences, and living more fearlessly every day.
How did the idea for Heart Talk come about?
I really wanted to write a book that was deeply expressive and also useful. There is a lot of conversation about how challenging our world feels right now, and I felt like we weren’t talking enough about what tools could help us emotionally during these times. When I wrote Heart Talk, I really wrote it to be a tool, to be a friend, to be a companion through painful or overwhelming moments.
Heart Talk is full of so many empowering and inspirational words of wisdom. What have been some of the most empowering and inspirational words of wisdom you have received?
My best friend, Sade Lythcott, said to me at dinner the other night, “We have to make space in our lives to receive all that the universe has to offer us.” It really impacted the way I felt about loss and [how it] shifts in our relationships with others. The words that usually make me feel the most empowered are words that heal me at the same time.
In your poem “what i lost and what i gained,” you write about losing fear and gaining your whole life. What do you think are some simple ways we can live fearlessly every day?
I think one of the most fearless things any of us could do is to be really honest with ourselves. One way to practice this is to notice if there is something in your life you are always talking yourself into or bribing yourself to accept. I often find that whenever I am doing that, there is a part of me that is hiding from the truth of the matter because I am afraid to really look at it.
Who or what are some of the biggest influences or inspirations in your life?
Angela Davis, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Gloria Steinem, Nina Simone. I am very much drawn to people who are able to use their words to activate the world.
In “with eyes closed,” you write “self-intimacy is self-care, self-care is self-love.” Why do you think self-care and self-love are so important, especially in today’s world?
In the world of 24-hour news cycles and media that uses conflict and drama to attract eyeballs, it is very easy to feel exhausted, scared, and hopeless. If you know how to replenish and know to take care in what feels like constant moments of outrage, you are much more likely to remain hopeful and feel less afraid and rundown.
Heart Talk is available for purchase here.