Poetry News

'Do something': Christopher Soto Interviewed at Queen Mob's Teahouse

By Harriet Staff


Christopher Soto AKA Loma is interviewed at Queen Mob's Teahouse. The "Queer, Latin@, punk poet & prison abolitionist" is also the editor of Neplanta and the author of a forthcoming chapbook, Sad Girl Poems (Sibling Rivalry Press), and this poem from American Poetry Review has also been making the rounds. "Why do you think there are so few POC in editorial positions or positions of power in literary institutions?" asks Ruben Quesada. More:

Loma: Institutional racism. I remember sitting in Major Jackson’s class and hearing him tell a story about Amiri Baraka. He said that Baraka once cried knowing (or thinking) that the major literary institutions like the New Yorker would never publish his work. I feel that way often. I once received a letter from a major editor saying, “Thanks for these necessary and powerful poems, for diversifying and equalizing the literary playing field.” Then that editor denied my work. Stating that it may not be a fit for their readership. I get a lot of statements like this, where people want me to exist in the literary field, to be radical and brown and trans. But then they don’t want to employ me or know about my daily struggles.

I think of the essay by Juliana Spahr, “Contemporary U.S. poetry and Its Nationalisms,” which discusses the relationship between the state and poetry funding. If the government is funding the NEA and you are writing poems about destroying the government, then you may not be prioritized in winning the grant. This is one example of the type of obstacles that face me as a radical brown writer. That’s why I write essays, tour, etc.; I have to think of ways outside of the literary institution to promote my own work. Also pertaining to white publishers. There is an article by Publishers Weekly that says 91% of publishers are white, only 3% Latinx, and 1% Black. It is hard to get into a field where there is literally NOBODY that looks like me (trans latinx). The statistics look like big signs that read FUCK YOU, GO AWAY, FAGGOT!

RQ: You want your readers to act. We’ve seen recently other writers address similar inactivity through the use of social media, sharing posts or leaving a comment on a post, which is not enough–I’m thinking of Roger Reeves’ craft talk “The Work of Art in the Age of Ferguson, Baltimore, and Charleston“–I agree with him. You’re echoing these sentiments as well–what action should readers take? What does it mean to be mobile?

Loma: Donate money, march, produce media or art. Do something.

They also discuss Soto's poetry, what is meaningful, and what to expect. Read it all here.