“Straight out of the gate there’s an as­sumed fa­mil­iar­ity be­tween the reader and my­self, void of pre­tense. Part of the plea­sure I take in be­ing a writer and reader of po­etry is this in­stant in­ti­macy.”

Poets and Writers - - Q & A - —ni­cole sealey

has no lan­guage, and the dis­place­ment of an en­tire peo­ple, which is al­most unimag­in­able. By the time I got to Good Stock Strange Blood I’d been work­ing in the art world and in­flu­enced by the ways ut­ter­ance hap­pens in art by folks like Kara Walker, Car­rie Mae Weems, and Lorna Simpson. I’d also been work­ing a lot in the prose poem and at­tend­ing to the sen­tence.

The sen­tence is such a cu­ri­ous method to­ward ut­ter­ance for me. It re­ally wants to con­trol us with its yoke of gram­mar. In Dis­ci­pline and Life in a Box Is a Pretty Life, the prose poem be­comes a way of think­ing through the con­cerns of free­dom—both in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal, in­di­vid­ual and col­lec­tive. In my mind, how­ever, Good Stock is my strangest work to date. The ap­proach to lan­guage is rang­ing—lots of lyric po­ems ex­tracted from Good Stock on the Di­men­sion Floor, the li­bretto I wrote for the po­lit­i­cally trou­ble-mak­ing global artist’s col­lec­tive HowDoYouSay YamInAfrican? And other ap­proaches: es­says, jour­nal­ing, prose po­ems, po­ems that are po­ems and po­ems that ap­prox­i­mate po­ems. Which is to say, the aes­thetic ap­proach is less con­tained, less nam­able. More va­grant.

Va­grant is the word I would use to de­scribe Good Stock Strange Blood. But if I had to de­scribe your work in one word, I would use “vul­ner­a­ble.” Im­me­di­ately, when reading Or­di­nary Beast, I’m struck by the open­ing poem’s gor­geous and sting­ing vul­ner­a­bil­ity. How does this kind of naked­ness im­pact how you think about writ­ing po­etry? And when I say “vul­ner­a­ble” or “naked,” I mean I feel a raw­ness in your work—the po­ems feel stripped of ar­ti­fice, even as they make them­selves avail­able to us as crafted po­ems. This is a rare and gor­geous bal­ance.

Sealey: Straight out of the gate there’s an as­sumed fa­mil­iar­ity be­tween the reader and my­self, void of pre­tense. Part of the plea­sure I take in be­ing a writer and reader of po­etry is this in­stant in­ti­macy. By the first page, we’re prac­ti­cally what one would re­fer to as fam­ily—at this point, I’m com­fort­able in my night­clothes and head­scarf. As you know, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween reader and writer is re­cip­ro­cal. We bring with us all that we are, the sum to­tal of our ex­pe­ri­ences up to that point. There’s an ex­change hap­pen­ing—one that en­cour­ages vul­ner­a­bil­ity, one that can trans­form strangers into kin. Which is why, with­out a sec­ond thought, I’m com­fort­able open­ing the col­lec­tion with “Med­i­cal His­tory,” its lines: “I’ve been preg­nant. I’ve had sex with a man / who’s had sex with men. I can’t sleep.”

I read some­where that in or­der to be lik­able, one mustn’t share too much too soon. I’m not con­vinced that this rule ap­plies to art, par­tic­u­larly po­etry, as some of the best work is some of the most ex­posed and in­dict­ing early on—take Sym­pa­thetic Lit­tle Mon­ster by Cameron Awk­ward-Rich, Rum­mage by Ife-Chu­deni A. Oputa, and Beast Merid­ian by Vanessa Angélica Vil­lar­real, for in­stance. All that to say, when po­ets sit down to write, we don’t think about be­ing vul­ner­a­ble. We just are.

But I so ad­mire this idea of va­grancy. Did you con­sciously give your­self per­mis­sion to be “more va­grant,” or was this an un­con­scious evo­lu­tion? And I’m in love with the ital­i­cized voices that in­ter­rupt the “nar­ra­tive” of Good Stock. Who are they?

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