Simone John and Krysten Hill in Gramma Poetry

hhsgo_blue_A few months ago, Simone John (author of the forthcoming collection, Testify) spoke to our own Krysten Hill about How Her Spirit Got Out.

As we continue to face so much malice and racism from the current administration in Washington, we’re finding it’s increasingly important to heed these artists’ words:

SJ : You and I have talked about how it feels like there’s something in the air right now for black creatives and makers. Like the atmosphere is charged. What’s your take on the situation? What does that look like, to you, in the poetry world?

KH : We talked about how black creatives and makers have always been doing work to document the time with a hard eye. Nikki Giovanni and Audre Lorde both document their truth and love for their community, while using their voices to shape the future of their community. For me, they’ve also reflected how creativity and imagination are essential to shaping the future. I’ve seen this future-work in poets like Danez Smith and Porsha O that are part of a rich tradition of poets that unabashedly speak to the realities of the black experience. I see this in young poets I teach and other youth poets in the Boston community. In all of their work I see and feel a continuous revolution against the damaging forces of racism, misogyny, and queerphobia. For me, poetry has always been a space for active resistance, testimony, learning, and unlearning.

As I develop my identity as an artist, I find myself seeking artistic spaces that are talking to each other and crying with each other and showing up for each other in a way that makes ferocious art possible. Personally, one way that I survived 2016 was through communities and intimate friend spaces invested in conversations about social justice and witnessing. I made decisions to leave spaces in Boston that were too cliquish or that allowed hate speech and discrimination to happen under the guise of “free speech.” At times, this made for a lonely creative life. Productive creative spaces build people up and welcome in strangers so that they can make brave art together. I’ve seen this life-changing work in spaces like the House Slam at The Haley House Bakery Café and in organizations like The Massachusetts Literary Education and Performance Collective (MassLEAP) and Whole Soul Health in Boston. Even when I can’t make it out to events, I see how these spaces affect and transform my students and community and promote healthy practices for creatives. This atmosphere is what I’m responding to and finding courage in as an artist.

Read the full interview at Gramma Poetry.

And we’re not the only ones taking solace in Krysten’s words.

Janice Worthen at Small Press Distribution praised HHSGO as an SPD staff pick:

Jill McDonough calls this sharp little collection “a middle finger tucked in the hip pocket of your favorite dress.” A middle finger, yes, and a fist held up, black and beautiful… But these poems are also hands held, palms out, hands cuffed behind, flesh that can’t stop the bullet, tears mixing with blood as the calendar turns. They are the voice that rises even as it breaks, radiant with power, “beautiful / and frightening / and free.” Hill writes “we told to be silent / about our magic…our wild I spawning / this flourish without their approval.” But the words, the ghosts, will get out: “Gonna learn how to speak because silence / is father to son to mama to brother to / sister to cousin to friend to rape and / they ain’t gonna tell us what we remember anymore.” This is a collection to be carried along, yes, and spoken aloud.”

We’re heartened to see Krysten’s work finding its audience. Check out the full list at SPD and order your copy of HHSGO today.

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