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A conversation with giovanni singleton!

By Harriet Staff


A conversation with poet, Cave Canem Fellow and editor of nocturnes (re)view of the literary arts giovanni singleton is up at The Daily Pen American. singleton’s long-awaited debut, Ascension, will be out in a few days from Counterpath.

The poet worked early on with Douglas Kearney, “who suggested experimentation as a process rather than an aesthetic.” Furthermore: “When seen in this way, I was able to trace a thread of improvisation to oppressed and displaced people that begins in ‘the making of a way out of no way,’ and goes to ‘using what you have in order to create something new.’ These are the shirts and pants that become the quilt. For example, our human interaction, or lack thereof, with the natural world is one of great experimentation—how to co-exist in a balanced and beneficial way.” She cites as inspirational “literary journals and small presses such as Umbra Magazine, and Hambone—both journals founded and edited by poets, David Henderson and Nathaniel Mackey, Soulbook, Charles Rowell’s Callaloo—Dudley Randall’s Broadside Press, Naomi Long Madgett at Lotus Press, and Ishmael Reed’s multicultural anthologies and publications including Yardbird.” She also quotes John Cage when thinking about visual artists: “I’m for the birds, not for the cages that people put them in.” “And in terms of actual writing”:

…Zen and Tibetan Buddhist texts have been a huge influence. Humanness and compassion, to which the poet Brenda Hillman and Carolyn Micklem, former director of Cave Canem have contributed great lessons, are also important to my work. A pilgrimage to Lorine Niedecker’s home and grave deepened my contemplation of her work. She had her ear to the ground and sky both. In my bones too remains an introduction to Surrealism by Dr. Jon Woodson at Howard University, and I adore Wanda Coleman’s American Sonnets, with so many blue notes and its explosion of poetic form. Otherwise, hummingbirds, deer, wild turkeys, the dead mouse the cat dragged in all tutor me.

And then there’s music!

I am particularly drawn to avant-garde jazz and “new music”: Monk, Coltrane, Mingus, Alice Coltrane, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Marion Brown, etc. And so there’s also the Blues: Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bessie Smith, and of the contemporary set, Koko Taylor and Corey Harris, who has an amazing album called Mississippi to Mali, which traces the connections between African music and American Blues. Then there’s the poet John Taggart, who, speaking of music, can really turn it out. I also walk along the right side of the tracks, namely gospel music of Mahalia Jackson, The Gerald Sisters, Clara Ward, Inez Andrews, Rev. James Cleveland, and Aretha Franklin. And too, there is always a place for James Brown, Prince, and house music. However, of late, Nina Simone’s “Come Ye,” “Take Me to The Water,” “I’m On My Way,” “Feeling Good,” and “I Shall Be Released” have been in heavy rotation.

Nice list. You can listen to singleton read poems from Ascension here.

Posted in Uncategorized on Thursday, October 6th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.