One of the best things about interviewing the poet, professor, and novelist DeMisty D. Bellinger, Ph.D., is how she drops a book recommendation into every answer. Another is the transparent manner in which she speaks of her work: her writing is so intentional that the scenes and characters seem to crawl inside the reader and live there. Once seen, the characters in Bellinger’s debut novel cannot be unseen. Released on April 19, 2022, by Unnamed Press, New to Liberty tells the stories of Sissily, Nella, and Greta, three lives sewn together by Dust Bowl-era Kansas, tragedy, and their own longings. Amy Reardon and DeMisty Bellinger spoke via phone and discussed whose experience gets centered in literature, how to give voice to the unvoiced, and Bellinger’s desire to write from questions to figure out how the world works.
New to Liberty: A Conversation with DeMisty D. Bellinger
In conversation, they go by Breezy. When Michael Mercurio and Brionne Janae spoke via Zoom, Breezy was at home in Brooklyn, and Michael was in Northampton, Massachusetts. Though Michael had known Breezy’s work for several years through their publications in Ploughshares, Waxwing, Frontier Poetry Review, The Sun, The Rumpus, and The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, they hadn’t met until they worked together on a program for the Tell It Slant Poetry Festival, cohosted by the Faraday Publishing Company and Black Writers Read. Here, they talk about musicality, authenticity, and the importance of bringing voice to what might be left unsaid. (Please note this interview discusses childhood sexual abuse and trauma.)
The Healing Nature of Truth: An Interview with Brionne Janae
Patrick Rosal is an interdisciplinary artist and author of five full-length collections of poetry. Former Interviews Editor Willie Perdomo connected with Patrick over email this winter, and in this lively exchange, they discuss the spirit realm and its ability to breathe life into writing. Rosal shares his perspective on music and performance in his work, as well as the importance of honoring rituals, ancestors, and legacy.
We Insist on a Godliness, a Mystery, a Laughter: An Interview with Patrick Rosal
Abdelmajid Haouasse’s transportive short story “A Hot Day” is a highlight of Issue 21‘s portfolio of fiction from Morocco. An award-winning scenographer, director, cinematographer, and author of short fiction, Haouasse is interviewed by The Common interns Sofia Belimova, Olive Amdur, Adaku Nwokiwu, and Eliza Brewer, with the assistance of Nashwa Gowanlock, who translated the interview as well as the original story. Here, Haouasse discusses his story’s unique narration, the translation process, and drawing inspiration from the Moroccan city of Asilah. This is the second of two interviews conducted by the summer interns with Issue 21 contributors; the first is with Latifa Baqa.
Language Is a Living Substance: An Interview with Abdelmajid Haouasse
In this interview, Nathan McClain’s mode of inquiry evokes substantial and insightful responses from John Murillo. The ultimate craftsman, Murillo understands the value of writing from a space, from a feeling, instead of toward a subject. In other words, he does not make an event of writing a poem. His practice is uncorrupted by a chase for validation. Instead, we understand the time and dedication necessary to achieve Murillo’s exquisite lyricism and masterful use of form.
John Murillo’s most recent book, Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry, won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry and the NAACP Image Award. He is an assistant professor of English and director of the creative writing program at Wesleyan University.
How to Write on a Ledge: An Interview with John Murillo
In this interview, Ralph Sneeden traces his journey as a poet and essayist, avoiding the destructiveness of being pigeonholed, the inherent politicality of landscapes, and drawing from a pool of resources and poetic techniques to achieve a voice that is at once reflective, visceral, meditative, exploratory, and willing to uncover the veil of comfort and human complexity in an attempt to “testify, to lay bare the quirks, ironies and nuances of history in a way that suggests something new or different about them.”
Fugues, Evidence, and Arguments: A Poet Finds His Way
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
Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex is Angela Chen’s first book: an incredible feat considering the breadth of topics that Chen covers with the adroitness that only an experienced journalist could bring. This is a book about asexuality, the often overlooked ‘A’ in LGBTQIA, and the ace community. But the book also challenges everyone, regardless of sexual identity, to interrogate their own relationship to romance, sex, desire, and culture. Chen is particularly interested in the phenomenon of compulsory sexuality, which, in her own words, describes, “a set of assumptions and behaviors that support the idea that every normal person is sexual, that not wanting (socially approved) sex is unnatural and wrong, and that people who don’t care about sexuality are missing out on an utterly necessary experience.”
Does a poet benefit from knowing more than one language? In what way do translingual poets approach their craft differently than their monolingual counterparts? Should translingual poets be understood as “self-translators”? Is translingualism a form of rebellion? How do we make home in, across, and between languages?
These topics are part of the following conversation between Ilan Stavans and Haoran Tong. Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities, Latin America and Latino Culture at Amherst College. He is the author of the award-winning, book-length poem The Wall (2018) and the translator into English of Jorge Luis Borges and Pablo Neruda and into Spanish of Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Bishop, among others. Chinese poet Haoran Tong is a student at Amherst College. The conversation took place electronically in Amherst and Wellfleet, Massachusetts, from June 25 to July 10, 2021.
The Poet’s Languages: A Conversation between Ilan Stavans and Haoran Tong
Elizabeth A.I. Powell’s most recent book is Atomizer(LSU Press, 2020). She is a Professor of Creative Writing at North Vermont University. Her poems are forthcoming in The New Republic and American Poetry Review. You can find her at www.elizabethaipowell.com.
The terrestrial assumption is that on any given day you can find humans crying out to the heavens. Elizabeth A.I. Powell is a poet who has “spent a lifetime trying to say the truth in a beautiful way,” and operates on the assumption that we all have celestial cries to process. In this interview, Matt Miller and Elizabeth A.I. Powell explore the invisibility of sexuality, the enactment of fury, and poem as atomizer. Walk through this synesthetic interview and discover how poetry approaches the smell of memory.
Come Angels: An interview with Elizabeth A.I. Powell about her new collection The Atomizer