Poet Kamilah Aisha Moon not only expresses herself with depth and beauty but also does so while addressing issues of substance. In her most recent collection, Starshine & Clay, she writes about topical subjects, including race and police brutality. Her poems eloquently examine the complexity of humanity, from injustice to kindness. Moon also bravely shares deeply personal experiences related to illness, to which readers have strongly connected. Her poetry is accessible, relatable, and moving.
My first collection didn’t focus on current events. But with this one, we are entrenched in so many crises that I felt like I couldn’t turn away. I had to speak to what was happening right now and record the emotional history of the time we’re in now.
Those were poems I had to write. As you know, there’s a difference between what you write and what you publish. It’s scary to say I want to put this in the record and have it reach people I don’t know. There have been times when I’ve stood up to read personal pieces, and I think, I can’t read this. That’s made it a different experience this time around, doing readings at colleges and bookstores. It’s been the right thing to do. People from all different walks of life – various socioeconomic backgrounds, genders, and ethnicities – have responded to these pieces.
We’re at an exciting time in American poetry. There are so many voices available now, such a wide range of tastes and styles. I would encourage people to find some of the new literary journals that include poetry. There’s also the Academy of American Poets. Sign up for [their Poem-a-Day newsletter] and be greeted every morning by a poem. Figure out what you like. As you become more comfortable and respond to certain work, images and lines may be sparked for you. You can experiment from there. People think of poetry with capital “P.” But no one has lived in your body or had your experiences. Start writing from your specific vantage point.
I don’t have a daily ritual in terms of when I write. I like to write by a window, to look outside as I think, remember, or daydream. I like to write longhand before I start to work with it digitally. There’s something about the physical act of putting pen to paper as a poem reveals itself that is unique. Sometimes I get seized by ideas and write for five or six days straight. I write in squalls. Lately, I notice that I’m waking up with clarity and moving into a phase where I write in the mornings.
I also write creative fiction, but poetry is my first love. I had an experience my junior year in high school that was similar to Dead Poets Society. My teacher, Bill Brown, took a bunch of 19-year-olds to the lake and had us writing in our journals. He introduced us to many contemporary and classic poets. I took the class on a whim, and he told me I had a knack for it, a good ear for language. I really think for many of us, poetry chooses us.
Allison Futterman is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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