Adaku Nwokiwu

Sitting with Ugliness and Complicated Beauties: An Interview with Kyle Carrero Lopez



Headshot of Kyle Carrero Lopez


Recently published in The BreakBeat Poets Volume IV: LatiNEXT, Cuban-American writer Kyle Carrero Lopez holds an MFA in Poetry from NYU and is the co-founder of LEGACY, a production collective by and for Black queer artists.

Carrero Lopez is unapologetic about his poetic concerns.  In this powerful interview, he explains how sonnets give him the ultimate space to practice his multitudes in a pressurized space, and the way anti-Blackness is provoked by capitalism, dangerous clothing, and cultural brutalization.


Sasha Burshteyn (SB): You have such a feeling for form in your collection MUSCLE MEMORY— “After Abolition” and “Inheritance” are both sonnets, and “(SLANG)UAGE” is in the Oulipian beautiful outlaw form. What draws you to these forms? What do you feel they offer your work?

Kyle Carrero Lopez (KCL): In the case of the sonnets, something about the compression really works for me. I appreciate that a sonnet demands a turn via the volta. It’s a pressurized space for those two poems. They’re intense poems as far as the subject matter, but I wanted to work with brevity in both, and so the sonnet felt like the right pot to put the poem in. Terrance Hayes has said that a sonnet is a room that you can scream into.

Sitting with Ugliness and Complicated Beauties: An Interview with Kyle Carrero Lopez

Bat Season in Austin



Austin, TX

The warm May evening fairly sizzled with bats. Out from under the crannies of Congress Avenue Bridge, Mexican free-tailed bats slipped out in threes, then tens, then hundreds, and flooded the Austin night, sipping from the skies tens of thousands of pounds of insects, as they did every spring and summer night. I felt at once the tickling of wings behind my ears and began shivering uncontrollably. No, fortunately not a bat—just the flick of a stranger’s ponytail at the back of my neck. But the shivery feeling remained; that contact with a stranger was a switch point in my mind. Any kind of creature, wonderful or mundane, slinked in the nooks and crannies of the city celebrated for its weirdness.

Bat Season in Austin

The Tech Giant


For our first date, Alex bikes all the way to Brooklyn Heights from the Upper West Side. Before we met, he told me how excited he was, how nervous. “I’ve never been on an online date before,” he confessed. “I don’t use apps.”

I made Negronis in jam jars and put them, with an ice pack, in my tote. I arrive terrified at the promenade. When I see the skyline, framed by haze and blue river water, I cry out. It’s the end of May, and for almost three months, I’ve been alone in my apartment. My loneliness propels me to risk contamination. I don’t tell friends or family. But they live with partners, kids. They have no right to judge.

Alex lives alone, too. We make jokes that aren’t jokes about going crazy; I even talked about crying. Hahaha really?, he wrote, then asked me out.

For two minutes, I let myself lean against a brick building and hyperventilate. He told me which bench to find him on, but I would have known him anyway when I see very long legs sticking out and a moppy brown head bent over a book.

The Tech Giant

July 2021 Poetry Feature: Burlin Barr



Table of Contents:

  • Repairing Holes in Concrete Walls
  • Eruptive debris of very small size 
  • Wolf Tree


Repairing Holes in Concrete Walls 

The furnace always was 

too hot, having been 

converted from one mode of operation 

to something else entirely; 

its source of power mysterious, improvisatory; 

changing: it looked like a tree 

July 2021 Poetry Feature: Burlin Barr

Staring Through a Slit

Text and images by ALAA TAWALBEH

After drawing the collection of dark faces in charcoal, Alaa was provoked to give them a story, so he used the same charcoal sticks to form words. The words were written after the drawings, so the faces can still have different stories. These drawings and more from the same collection will be displayed in Alaa’s second solo exhibition, forthcoming in September 2021 in Amman, alongside works in watercolor.

Artwork of a face

At Rukban refugee camp, your only source of entertainment is sitting on the cold floor and staring at a slit in your tent. It flaps open with each gust of wind and cold drops of rain land on your face, just like the broken window in your old house.

The raindrops are black. They say it is the soot from a faraway city. Some say it’s from your city, Aleppo. Maybe some of it has come from the building you once lived in.

Staring Through a Slit

Translation: Poems by Lara Solórzano Damasceno

Translated from the Spanish by IGNACIO CARVAJAL

Poems appear in both Spanish and English.

Recife, Brazil

Translator’s Note

Lara Solórzano’s poetry is a contestation, a reprieve from fear. Her work exhibits a precise aesthetic and a fundamental grounding in urgency. Historical memory characterizes every figure and spirit in the verses that name societal constraints faced by women. Along with that naming of violences—and ultimately more important than it—the poems ring with an unequivocal rejection of them. It honors me to offer these translations from the collection El bestiario de las falenas.
—Ignacio Carvajal

Translation: Poems by Lara Solórzano Damasceno

64-West & KY State Fair


Kentucky, United States

After Calvino

When you ride a long time in the private
night of your pickup cab
                                 you enter eventually 
into a desire you cannot name    a greater dark
that wants only what 

64-West & KY State Fair