Hope you all had a fine Thanksgiving! I had a great one myself; very little family equals very little hassles. Perfectly roast turkey and a bottle of Maker’s 46 can’t be beat.
Anyway, this’ll most likely be the last interview for this issue. I’d like to thank all the authors for taking the time to answer my questions, and thanks to everyone for reading. Here’s Chiyuma Elliott, who gave us two poems: “From” and “Bildungsroman.”
Describe your work in 25 words or less.
Ever since I read Van Jordan’s poem “from” I’ve been making (and hijacking) poetic forms.
Tell us about your poems “From” and “Bildungsroman.”
Way too autobiographical. I’m still freaked out to have published these. Every summer, Toi Derricotte tells all the poets at the Cave Canem retreat: “Write the hard poem.” I listened to her, and it turns out that the hard poem right now is about race and sex and place. How those things shape the way some of us grow up.
What or who inspires you to write?
Nouns. And visual art. Love calls us to the things of this world, right? I spend a lot of time on Etsy, looking at paintings. And at FoundMagazine.com, which is like a giant writing prompt. In my dreams sometimes, I write like Rilke: house, bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window. Last night, I woke up and realized I’d been remixing a manifesto by Kandinsky into a bunch of found poems in my sleep. They weren’t done, of course—but it was really beautiful to see the drafts in my head, to watch the words rearranging like that. Usually, the writing process is much more laborious!
What authors have influenced you as a writer?
Right now, I think I’d be lost without Carl Phillips and Katie Peterson and Robert Hayden and E. E. Cummings. And Natasha Trethewey’s ekphrastic poems. Also everyone who’s gutsy enough to write ghazals.
Do you have a blog/website?
Nope—that feels too exposed somehow.
Where can we read you next?
I’ve got a new poem (a bent triolet) in Dear Sir: http://www.dearsir.org/sites_current_issue_writers_13/chiyuma_elliott.html
I’ve also got work coming out soon in two anthologies: the White Space Poetry Anthology (edited by Maya Washington), and Three Minus One (co-edited by Sean Hanish and Brooke Warner).
What are you working on right now?
A long series of poems called Tanabata about my childhood sweetheart. I keep thinking about James Baldwin—how he said he wrote Another Country to find out if love exists in the world. I get that. I think I’m writing Tanabata to find out if love matters.
Any advice for other writers?
Listen to Toi: write the hard poem. Then do it again. It will make you a braver, better writer to take risks on the page. Even if you don’t share those poems with anyone.
Anything else you’d like to say?
If I could magically have a different talent, I’d work with molten glass. I’m in love with a series called “Desire Path Revisited” by Julie Alland, and I think everyone else should be too: