What are you reading on the subway or in the waiting room today?
I just started Vievee Francis’s Forest Primeval. It has been a necessary, lush-languaged escape from Los Angeles. There is a little overlap in the topics we write about, and it is illuminating to see her take, which is often richer and much longer than mine. I have all of her collections makes me feel like a dutiful student. Also in my bag: Chiyuma Elliott’s California Winter League and Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude.
What book popped for you in 2015?
The long battle for women’s voices and bodies to be recognized as autonomous has been a fascinating one for me. I appreciated the short works by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie (We Should All Be Feminists) and Rebecca Solnit (Men Explain Things to Me) published in 2014. I’m a fan of pocket-sized protests, which is a category into which these books fall. Tonya M. Foster’s A Swarm of Bees in High Court, published in 2015, is an aural funhouse that Ralso feels womanist in its perspective. Hearing her in person is best, but there is a great audio example of her word play mastery at Belladonna.
Whose words do you return to regularly?
I return to Kimiko Hahn most often. She shows such control in writing about losing her mother and being a mother. Her poems read like she is studying a scarub between her fingers. It isn’t a lovely thing, but there are glinting parts if you turn it just so. Her collection, The Artist’s Daughter, was quiet, soft and glinting in a way that was more comforting than grief. I’m also tickled by her transformation of articles from a newspaper’s science section to discuss sex, her daughters’ development and survival. Insect cannibalism can be funny and relevant.
Is there an author you can’t wait to read next?
I am ecstatic about Tafisha Edwards’s forthcoming collection, The Bloodlet. I have yet to meet her but am unusually proud of her public and permanent response to sexual assault. There are several lines in her recently published poems that give me pause. They are at once personal, excoriating and exceptionally true these days—an acknowledgement of no safety for women, particularly Black women, but also no fear in calling out the duplicity. For example:
Yes, this police force is committed to protecting the law-abiding citizens within this jurisdiction, but protecting the character of your rapist is also of the utmost importance.
I really want this book in my hands. I anticipate loaning out this collection again and again assuming it is returned to me.
What are you working on now? What can VIDA fans look forward to from you next?
I celebrate the arrival of my second chapbook, Language Lesson (MIEL), in August. The editor and I made something wonderful.
Ashaki M. Jackson is an applied social psychologist and poet. She is a Cave Canem and VONA alumna whose work appears in CURA, Pluck! and Prairie Schooner among others. She lives in Los Angeles.