You Will Succeed
What are you writing and working on now?
I’m not working on anything at the moment. A few months ago, I finished the manuscript for my next book, Blackspace, which is a collection of essays on contemporary artists of color, focusing in particular on digital media. I also just got finished writing poems in response to these artists’ work. Pretty soon, I’ll start working on a video piece that I’ll exhibit in 2020. But I’m coming to the end of a two-year fellowship (I spent a year at the Studio Museum in Harlem and a year at MoMA) and I’m trying to figure out what’s next for me.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I like to have conversations with people I enjoy. I really love to take walks. I enjoy the subway and sitting in quiet silence with others, moving through space, commuting. I like to read for pleasure, though usually I only read when I’m teaching. I like to teach.
Who are the people whose work you enjoy and get motivated by?
I’ve been reading Jace Clayton’s book, Uproot: Travels in 21st-Century Music and Digital Culture and feeling inspired. He’s dealing with very complex ideas, but they come across as being easy to understand. That’s a very hard thing to do in writing. It reminds me that writing can have a spirit of generosity about it, which has given me this desire to write poems that are generous.
Where do you go to seek a change of mood?
Outside. Usually to the nearest park. Or to a quiet place with books, if I can’t go outside. Otherwise, to my room, which is also a quiet place with books.
As an artist, what do you consider noise that’s taking too much attention and what do you see as important issues that are not getting their fair share of attention?
A lot of the news cycle is noise. A lot of it isn’t. Advertising is so ubiquitous and it’s getting harder to escape and harder to know what is and isn’t advertising. The line is often blurred. I think our mental space is being occupied increasingly in ways we can’t control. I think people (including myself), in general, should pay more attention to how they’re feeling and how their relationships are doing.
What are the key ingredients of your forthcoming work, Blackspace?
It’s my first non-poetry book. The key ingredients are the artists I’m talking about. There are writers (Fred Moten, Nathaniel Mackey, etc.), media and performance artists like Ulysses Jenkins and Deanna Bowen, and musicians like Actress and Elysia Crampton. I’m looking, in different ways, at how artists of color have used their work to make strides toward individual and collective liberation. “Liberation” is a big word, so I try to think about it in a number of ways.
A few words about the core of your works: Mount Carmel & the Blood of Parnassus (2017) and Take This Stallion (2016)?
I don’t know! You tell me. Maybe an interest in what I share in common with others.
What has made you smile today?
A colleague. A good conversation can make me really, really happy.
What matters to me right now is emotional health. In many ways, I’m learning now how to be in touch with my emotions. For a long time, I thought I was really good at being in touch with myself, but every day, I see how it’s easy to be in denial about that. It’s very humbling. I think getting more in touch with your emotions helps you connect with others in more genuine ways.
Intimacy is such a magical thing, and then again, it’s so ordinary! If we can get out of the way of it, it happens so naturally. So, I’m learning how to get out of the way of the intimacy in my life.
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