"I think I write more in the winter because I get easily distracted in the summer. That said, I think I’m more of a gatherer in the warmer months, my creative process is very fragmented, so I jot things down or immerse myself in experiences/experimentation when it’s warm. In the winter it’s ugly showerless isolation, where I play chicken with my own emotional vulnerabilities and fears to attempt getting at something that at the very least feels honest—even if it isn’t any good. I binge-read in waves and spurts."
"I was fascinated with the idea of magical girls, which is this whole genre in anime/manga focused on girls with magical powers who are as feminine as superheroes are traditionally masculine. I just really needed there to be a magical girl who wore a hijab so that I could feel that my hijab could be as pretty as their tiaras."
April Gibson is a poet, essayist, and educator whose work has appeared in Pluck!, Valley Voices, Tidal Basin Review, Literary Mama, and elsewhere. She has received a Loft Mentor Series Award in Poetry, a Vermont Studio Center Residency, and is a fellow of The Watering Hole Poetry Retreat, a VONA/Voices Writing Workshop fellow, and a Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop fellow. Her chapbook, Automation (2015), was published by Willow Books as part of their emerging poet and writer series. Her current project is a full-length poetry collection titled The Black Woman Press Conference. I met April some years ago at a reading at Common Good Books and I was immediately struck by her poetry’s force and grace. It was my pleasure to interview this bright, bold light about her recent and in-progress performance and poetic work.
I met speculative novelist/prose writer and fellow INTJ Stephanie Chrismon last year when I was the local poetry mentor for the Loft Mentor Series and she was a prose participant. I was inspired by her sense of humor, her fearlessness in her personal essays, and her passion while presenting her work at the Loft.
Minneapolis-based author and enrolled member of the White Earth Nation Marcie Rendon is a delightful person and a gifted, hard working, and prolific writer in many genres. She was generous enough to chat with me about her work and her new debut novel Murder on the Red River from Cinco Puntos Press, which she describes as, “the story about a young Native woman, raised in foster care, who is incredibly resilient and is making her way in the world, her way. In doing so, she helps the county sheriff solve a murder in the Red River Valley of the North.” The Red River Valley has been home to Ojibwe in the region for hundreds of years; European settler-occupiers arrived in 1812. Currently, the valley spans the political border between the nations of Canada and the United States.
Water. Poetry. Space. Place. The sublime. If you aren’t familiar with the writer and cultural worker Moheb Soliman’s poetry and way of looking at the Midwest, you’re missing out! Moheb lives in Minneapolis and works at the Saint Paul-based organization Mizna, which produces an Arab American lit journal and film festival.
Dameun Strange is a musician, composer, songwriter, non-profit leader, dapper man, and all-around cool person well known to many of us in the Twin Cities community, and I was happy he was willing to spend some of his time with me talking about the cosmos, his youth in Washington, D.C., songwriting, and other starry conversational offshoots. He fit in our chat between an already long, full day of work as the executive director of NEMAA (Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association) and an evening board meeting.
Bronx-born poet Lara Mimosa Montes’ debut book, The Somnambulist, out from Horse Less Press in late 2016, was the main topic of conversation when she and I sat down to talk about poetry. Montes’ work has appeared in Fence, BOMB, The Third Rail, and elsewhere. She is a recently defended PhD candidate in English at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. She also teaches poetry at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and works as an editor for Triple Canopy and Poor Claudia magazines.
With the book itself between us like a beautiful meal (or a small Ouija board), we meandered through a discussion about influences and aesthetics.
I’ve always admired Kathryn Haddad for her founding the Arab American literary journal Mizna but only recently had to chance to pick her brain about her own literary work. I asked her about her journey coming into her own as a playwright, “I always loved theater. My earliest and best memories were of making up plays in the basement of my parents’ house and inviting neighbors to watch. I started performing in plays in elementary school and all through high school, but did not begin to write plays until I was in my late 20s when I discovered that I had a story to tell, too.” I am so grateful that she has been part of telling Arab American stories in Minnesota and beyond.
The first time I met poet Roy Guzmán it was at a Great Twin Cities Poetry Reading held at Augsburg College a few years ago—I was riveted by the lyric intensity of his language and his incantatory delivery. Since then, he has continued to press into the inner and outer world and make more vivid, haunting, elegiac, passionate poetry. He is an MFA candidate in the University of Minnesota’s Creative Writing Program and is hard at work on this thesis.
I asked Roy to tell us about his dreams for himself as a poet and this question seemed to have connected with his current concerns, “I think about dreams a lot and how they are often constructs of a white supremacist imagination. I don’t know if how I attempt to respond to them falls in line with a process of decolonization, but I do know—or at least I’m aware—that writing is one method through which I choose to dream again, to re-dream, to realize that I can veer away from these kinds of questions and manage to produce work that, above all, speaks to me in a broad level."