What are you reading on the subway or in the waiting room today?
Diane Seuss’ Four Legged Girl is in my car for when I have to go to the post office; always a wait. Difficult and prodding; sometimes it dares you to laugh. Seuss is so wicked; she sort of creates these tonal personae for the speaker. So beautiful. Dawn Lundy Martin’s Life in a Box is a Pretty Life is ready at the bathtub. Apropos for the way the poems want to move through rooms and wrestle geometric space. How does she do that? She’s deft at it.
What book popped for you in 2015?
One book that startled me from 2015 is Sandra Simonds’ third book, steal it back. It actually plays nice with my Seuss and Martin reads in that it interrogates self and space. And while it does so at times ironically, it’s only a little hipster. There can’t, after all, be too many hipster poems that wax motherhood, or circumnavigate the architecture of Ancient Rome. “I Grade Online Humanities Tests” is cold in me like the salty fries I munch for days from containers on the floor of my car.
Whose words do you return to regularly?
Just a few of the 2016 books I’m anticipating with pant: Solmaz Sharif’s LOOK, Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Tommye Blount’s chapbook What Are We Not For, Tyehimba Jess’ Olio, Aracelis Girmay’s Black Maria,my pressmates Jamaal May and Matthew Olzmann. I really plan to have no spending money this year.
Is there an author you can’t wait to read next?
Lately, honestly I’ve been reading so much new stuff, it’s hard to get back to going back. But a few because I didn’t really connect at first, but are now taking on different shape: Galway Kinnell for one (especially Body Rags andMortal Acts, Mortal Words), I’m thinking. And then I was reading C.D. Wright’s Deepstep Come Shining for a class I’m teaching when we lost her, so I’ve been sort of diving back in to her work and feeling so differently with it.
What are you working on now? What can VIDA fans look forward to from you next?
I’ve been working on a long poem about my father and wondering where I might send it off to. Currently, it’s about 10 pages and I’m not totally sure it’s done. Crazy long lines. I gave a reading of it here in St. Louis and it took up the whole reading time. Also working on trying to schedule events and readings for my second book, Play Dead, coming in April. That’s hard for me (for all of us?). I hate bugging people.
francine j. harris is a 2015 NEA fellow whose first collection, allegiance, was a finalist for the 2013 Kate Tufts Discovery and PEN Open Book Award. Her second book, play dead, is forthcoming from Alice James Books. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Boston Review, Rattle, Ninth Letter, and Ploughshares among others. Originally from Detroit, she is a Cave Canem fellow and Writer in Residence at Washington University in St. Louis.