In the room I sometimes call “my office,” sometimes call “my study,” and sometimes call “the eagle’s nest” (because it’s relatively high up from street level).
1. Where are you now?
I’m working on a long poem, which is quite a different challenge for me than the poems I have written before (and still write, when I can’t get my momentum going on the long piece). I’ve written a lot (as a critic) about long poems in the last few years, but I am gaining a new perspective on and appreciation for them as a result of trying to write one myself. If and when I finish it, I hope very much it will come out.
2. What are you working on and what have you got coming out?
Meanwhile, I have a few critical pieces that were just published or forthcoming this year: a short essay on NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!in relation to conceptual poetry will appear in Jacket2 sometime this fall; another on the poetics of Russell Atkins is in the still-new-ish volume on his work in the Unsung Masters series, published by Pleiades Press; and an article on visuality in contemporary narratives of slavery (treating Thylias Moss’s Slave Moth and Edward P. Jones’s The Known World) is in the just-released collectionContemporary African American Literature: The Living Canon, out from Indiana UP. And I have poems forthcoming in FENCE, Feminist Formations, and the premier issue of The Account: A Journal of Poetry, Prose, and Thought.
Here, in the eagle’s nest; in the living room, in my comfy chair; on the subway and NJ Transit, during my commute; on planes; when I’m lucky, at residencies and writing retreats; in coffee shops, from time to time — anywhere that I can have quiet (or a steady hum of background noise) and not be (or have to worry about being) interrupted for a good 30 minutes or more.
3. Where do you write?
I just yesterday picked up Saeed Jones’s chapbook, When the Only Light is Fire, and have been blown away by the first ten pages. Speaking of fire, I’m also in the middle of Brenda Hillman’s latest, Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire, the final book in her tetralogy on the elements, and feeling stunned by the breadth of her accomplishment across that series. And I have to shout out Frank X Walker’s new collection, Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evans, a book of persona poems in the voices of the people closest to the life and murder of an important Civil Rights activist. He passed it along to me at the end of my visit to a wonderful NEH Summer Institute on African American poetry at KU, and I read it cover to cover on the plane ride home.
4. What’s the last best thing you’ve read?
I encountered the work of Cynthia Arrieu-King for the first time this summer and am very glad to now have a couple of her books to savor. I mentioned above the new journal The Account, which I “discovered” by way of being invited to send them some work (a lovely and flattering gesture).
5. What journals, poets, presses have you discovered lately?
Lately, I’m indulging my passion for theatre. I’ve subscribed in the last 2-3 years to seasons at Signature (where I just saw a fascinating play about the relationship of books and technology: stop. reset., by Regina Taylor), Classic Stage Company, and The Public, but will try to make time for other things that look exciting, whether on Broadway or as far off-Broadway as Brooklyn. I’ve met a lot of playwrights this year, thanks to a residency (MacDowell) and a retreat (AROHO) that were multidisciplinary, and I’ve already seen plays by some of these folks (Eliza Bent’s The Hotel Colors and Daniel Pearl’s A Kid Like Jake) and am on the ready for others (especially anything by Ellen McLaughlin).
6. Care to share any distractions / diversions?
Some forthcoming and just-released poetry books I am very excited for: Kamilah Aisha Moon’s She Has a Name; Harryette Mullen’sUrban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary; Lee Ann Brown’s A Crown for Charlotte; Reginald Harris’s Autogeography; and Randall Horton’s Pitch Dark Anarchy. Looking forward to a great season of readings on my campus in the Writers at Rutgers series (free and open to the public, walking distance from the New Brunswick station on NJ Transit); Mark Doty has put together a very international line-up this year: Zadie Smith, Adam Zagajewski, Jeanette Winterson, Ghassan Zaqtan w/ Fady Joudah as translator, Salman Rushie, and Geoff Dyer (not in that order). Looking forward to reading Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah, as soon as I can find the time. And, having recently moved, I’m looking forward to simply having all the boxes unpacked, at last. I’m not there yet, but getting closer.
7. What are you looking forward to?