“It’s true that they called my name specifically, and that in itself is a wonderful thing, but 10,000 other people rushed through the door with me.” – Nikky Finney on winning the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry
I am so grateful for this Lambda Literary interview with Nikky Finney. Truth be told, I haven’t even finished reading it but I couldn’t wait to share it with all of you. Given the thematic focus of this blog, I figured this excerpt was worthy of a taste, but you really need to read the entire interview.
Did you stay in South Carolina?
I could not have stayed in South Carolina and become the writer that I have become; a writer who relishes exploring themes that are as beautiful as they are taboo. I was always my mother’s most curious child, the one also with the hardest head. I wanted to see the rest of the country and the rest of the globe. I loved to be on the move. I had to see what was down the road and over the hill. South Carolina is a state steeped in conservative values and traditions. There’s a lot about the state that does not like change. As a teenager I knew I would break away from some of those traditions. As much as I loved my family, I knew I would step away from home and make my own way in the world. I had to. I had to leave home, the church, and all the people who loved and protected me. I had to explore all the things that I needed to explore. I knew that I had to leave the southern landscape that I had been born into in order to find out exactly who I was in the world.
Where did you go next?
I went further South (laughs).
by Rook Floro
To wish to be spectacular
like an unlit match imagining to burn
or the spent match remembering its burning:
want flying over its pale wooden body
all acetylene brightness and rough sound –
a dense limb fearless
in knowing the flame, knowing its desire
equals its consumption,
use to uselenessness in the motion
of a body made ash with abandon.
The matches in the fold-over book all agree
it is the most beautiful thing
– from Quiver by Susan B. A. Somers-Willet
by Liza Sylvestre
What a surprise to see my poem “After the First Shot” featured on Verse Daily today.
by Todd Chilton
I once believed the work of advocacy was the work of picket lines and protests, sit-ins and street theater, public hearings and private lobby efforts. Now I realize that the work of advocacy is also the work of the word — our talking and teaching, our writing and witnessing, our texts and testimonies.
from Particular Voices edited by Robert Giard
by I Wayan Sudarsana Yansen
Grateful to Jonterri Gadson for her thoughtful questions about When The Only Light Is Fire. Here’s an excerpt of the interview:
JG The book’s arc seems to move from boyhood to various representations of manhood. The first half of the chapbook contains several “boy” poems: “Terrible Boy,” “Boy in Stolen Evening Gown,” “Boy at Edge of Woods,” and “Boy at Threshold.” The fire of the book’s title seems to start in the trauma detailed in these poems, in the fields of these poems. How does trauma influence your writing?
SJ I think of fire as a difficult knowledge. It illuminates, but something must be destroyed in order for that to happen. That paradox, to me, is the task of becoming a person. What am I going to burn down in order to clear a space for my foundation? That is what the archetypal “boy” of the poems is asking himself over and over.
With that being said, perhaps the hardest part of this process isn’t the trauma itself but the fact that boys, in particular, are conditioned to repress their feelings about trauma. I tried to reflect that in the first section of the chapbook by keeping the menace at the edges of the page. In “Terrible Boy,” for example, there are coded references and the final image, but the boy never actually says what is happening exactly.
Also, if you’re in NYC this Wednesday, 1/4, I’ll be reading with Megan Boyle & Thom Donovan as part of the Blue Note Reading Series in Brooklyn. It should be a hoot. Here are the details.