Welcome back to Lyric Essentials! This week, we welcome the very talented Roya Marsh, who reads two poems by Eve L. Ewing and discusses poets’ roles as storytellers, activists, and informers. Thank you for reading!
Erica Hoffmeister: Eve L. Ewing’s poetry is so powerful – how and why did you choose to read these two particular poems for Lyric Essentials?
Roya Marsh: When prompted to read poems for Lyric Essentials my mind immediately centered Black women. When sifting through pieces and poets whose pieces I love, I’d ended up with a list of poets and poems that were in conversation with the work that I create. The Horror Movie Pitch poems by Ewing bring about the exact questions most folks should be asking themselves. The “what ifs” and “how abouts” in these poems beg the readers to consider a fictional world where Black women (the ones the world loves to hate) can choose to retaliate or live their best carefree lives. It brings about the topic of visibility and calls out the folks who so often abuse and take advantage of us and then comes back for more in the second piece.
EH: What is your personal connection to Ewing? Does she influence your writing or activism in any way?
RM: Dr. Eve L. Ewing is an outstanding writer with an incredible body of work that allows the reader to explore the past, present and future of Black experience. Her writing has an incredible impact on my own craft as she uses her everyday life’s work and research to craft intriguing, witty and powerful poems based in truth and historical context. The poems are made to inform, remind and demand change through messages that are accessible to readers of all backgrounds.
EH: You are an incredibly talented performance poet who always seems to be so comfortable reading poetry for others. Is that an accurate perception of your relationship with reading poetry aloud? How is the experience of reading Ewing’s poems different from reading your own?
RM: The only difference between reading my own work and Dr. Ewing’s is that I pray I do her poems justice. My reading voice is heavily impacted by the theme of the poems. I never attempt to assume a poet’s intentions, but I am guided by my own interpretations of the piece. I can imagine what it sounds like to pitch an idea, especially one that seems so farfetched, and let my imagination guide my voice. Here, I also considered what it would be like to be one of the Black women that Dr. Ewing is referring to in the lines. Now, that adds another layer to my reading voice. It is less about who I sound like when I read and so much more about doing the tale justice. Paying homage to the lives that would inspire Dr. Ewing to craft such a tale about invisible Black women seeking revenge.
EH: Your debut collection dayliGht was released this spring, and has been met with well-deserved praise in working to dismantle white supremacy and center LGBTQIA experiences. Can you speak to how poetry in particular is such an important medium when creating space for your voice and activism?
RM: Poets have become the storytellers. Our work now is to inform the public of what is going on and continue prompting conversations around these subjects. In our current social climate, poetry is a meaningful outlet for the surging thoughts, questions and emotions plaguing our minds. There’s an indescribable feeling that comes along with the craft, when your work is honored and valued you are reminded that people are listening. The platform makes room for countless others to resonate with what you’ve created, and it calls for an audience. The work from today’s poets broadens the genre and builds on the legacies of Audre Lorde, Lucille Clifton, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez and so many more set the path for. The goal is to dismantle white supremacy and all of its ills. The artists use poems to liberate the marginalized and incarcerated, highlight youth experience, demand rights LGBT+ community and so much more.
EH: Lastly, is there anything you are working on, whether writing or organizing, that you’d like to share with readers?
RM: I’m working on so many things at once that it is sometimes hard to center my mind. Luckily, I am never alone. I have a lifestyle brand, Blk Joy (Black Joy) that is giving away a $1,000 book scholarship to a Black scholar pursuing a college degree. We are also launching a fundraiser, which will benefit 4 organizations doing the work to liberate the incarcerated and support with bail funds. That showcase will be livestreamed on Facebook on 7/31. More information can be found at http://www.blkjoy.com.
Dr. Eve Louise Ewing is a poet, essayist, visual artist and sociologist of education, teaching as an assistant professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, and Faculty Affiliate at UChicago’s Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. She is the author of two collections of poetry: Electric Arches, which received awards from the American Library Association and the Poetry Society of America, and most recently, 1919. She has also written the nonfiction work Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side, and co-authored the play No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks with Nate Marshall. She also writes comics for Marvel: Ironheart and Champions. Her first children’s book, Maya and the Robot, is forthcoming in 2020. Ewing’s writing, art, activism, research, and work as an educator centers around racism, social inequality, urban policy, and the effects on the public school system.
Purchase Ewing’s acclaimed debut collection of poetry Electric Arches from Haymarket Books.
Check out Ewing’s comic series from Marvel: Ironheart and Champions.
Listen to Ewing’s podcast, Bughouse Square.
A Bronx, New York native, Roya Marsh is a nationally recognized poet, performer, educator and activist. She is the Poet in Residence at Urban Word NYC and works feverishly toward LGBTQIA justice and dismantling white supremacy. Roya’s work has been featured in Poetry Magazine, Flypaper Magazine, Frontier Poetry, the Village Voice, Nylon Magazine, Huffington Post, Button Poetry, Def Jam’s All Def Digital, Lexus Verses and Flow, NBC, BET and The BreakBeat Poets Vol 2: Black Girl Magic(Haymarket 2018). In Spring 2020, MCD × FSG Originals published Marsh’s dayliGht, a debut collection of experimental poetry exploring themes of sexuality, Blackness, and the prematurity of Black femme death—all through an intersectional feminist lens with a focus on the resilience of the Black woman.
Purchase dayliGht by Roya Marsh from MCD x FSGO.
Watch Marsh read her poem “Black Joy” featured on All Def Poetry.
Listen to Marsh discuss dayliGht on LitHub’s podcast collaboration, Well-Versed With FSG.
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/