“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.”
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?