Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! For this installment, we chat about righteous anger with writer and performer, Candice Iloh and listen to her read poems by the legendary Sasha Banks.
Erica Hoffmeister: Why did you choose Sasha Banks’ work to read for Lyric Essentials?
Candice Iloh: I have known about Sasha’s work for a long time and she is a poet I tell everyone about, so her work was an easy choice already at the tip of my tongue. Simply put, she is a Black person writing the kind of poems I want to read right now as this country shifts and implodes on itself. I’ve moved past being satisfied with poems simply working as a witness to our experiences and violent pasts as people Black people in America. I want to read poems that cast knowing spells on the reader and this entire country as a firm reminder of the powerful presence of our ancestors. I want to read Black poems warn this country of the error in harming Black bodies while reminding those of us who are still alive that we are not in this alone. I want to read poems that speak of Black people who have had enough. Sasha Banks does that.
EH: america, MINE is not your average poetry collection—there is a sort of narrative arc within the worldbuilding of magical realism and Afrofuturism. Why did you choose these two particular poems read from this book?
CI: I first chose the title poem america, MINE because, for me, it is the gut of what Sasha is getting at with this entire collection. My favorite line “we are not asking anymore” really says it. We are done asking permission for our rights, our freedom, our humanity when it has always been ours to claim. I chose uhmareka, post collapse: three for it’s very similar quality, but with vivid examples of a society stripped of its oxymoronic symbolism and oppressive structures. This poems is, for once, suggesting a mourning that will follow the destruction of white supremacy and all that does not serve us. It gave me a lot of pleasure imagining that.
EH: How has Sasha Banks influenced your own work as a writer and community mentor?
CI: Sasha has and will always be a welcome challenge to do the bold thing in my work as a poet. To come to the page with knives and allow my very righteous anger the space to drive my stories. And she is also a poet who is really for our communities along the entire spectrum of black poets/artists. Her loyalty to both the integrity of her work and to the people its for is relentless.
EH: Lastly, is there anything you are currently working on that you’d like to share with our readers?
CI: My debut YA novel in verse Every Body Looking hits stores nationwide on September 22nd and I’m so excited about it. It’s available for pre-order now.
Sasha Banks is a Pushcart-nominated poet from Brooklyn and the creator of Poets for Ferguson. She has had work featured in RHINO, Kinfolks Quarterly, PBS Newshour, B O D Y Literature, and many others, and has performed in Tulane University’s Vagina Monologues. She holds an MFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and currently lives in North Carolina.
Candice Iloh is a first-generation Nigerian-American writer and performer whose work centers on the body and finding one’s chosen home in the world. Her words have appeared in Fjords Review, So to Speak Journal, For Harriet, Blavity, No Dear Magazine, Glass Poetry Journal, The Felt, and The Black Girl Magic Anthology by Haymarket Books. She is a recipient of fellowships from VONA, Home School via Lambda Literary fellowship, as well as a Rhode Island Writers Colony Writer-in-Residence alum. She holds an MFA in Writing for Young People from Lesley University, where she completed her forthcoming young adult novel in verse, Every Body Looking (Dutton YA/Penguin Random House, Sept 22 2020). She is a 2018 Hi-ARTS Critical Breaks artist residency recipient where she debuted her first one-woman show, ADA: ON STAGE. When Candice isn’t writing, she dances.
Preorder Candice Iloh’s Every Body Looking from Penguin Random House.
Watch an episode from the docu-series Brooklyn is Masquerading as the World, featuring Iloh.
Read an interview with Iloh from Colored Girls Hustle‘s #growfierce series.
Erica Hoffmeister is originally from Southern California and earned an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English from Chapman University. Currently in Denver, she teaches college writing and is an editor for the Denver-based literary journal South Broadway Ghost Society. She is the author of two poetry collections: Lived in Bars (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), and the prize-winning chapbook, Roots Grew Wild (Kingdoms in the Wild Press, 2019). A cross-genre writer, she has several works of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, articles and critical essays published in various outlets. Learn more about her at http://ericahoffmeister.com/