#AWP19 Featured Presenter Q&A with Evie Shockley
AWP | March 2019
Event Title: A Reading & Conversation with Dawn Lundy Martin, Morgan Parker, and Evie Shockley, Sponsored by Cave Canem
Description: Three award-winning poets give brief readings, followed by a moderated conversation about poetry as a space for complex negotiations and radical reimaginings. While the meaning of diversity is being debated, these poets' unique voices and varied strategies expand the discourse beyond considerations of race and ethnicity. Their views of the poet as artist and social being disrupt familiar tropes assigned to “the writer of color.”
Participants: Dawn Lundy Martin, Morgan Parker, Evie Shockley
Location: Portland Ballroom 253-254, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2
Date & Time: Thursday, March 28, 1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.
What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
Of the many I wish I could name, I'll note Saretta Morgan's poetry chapbook, Feeling Upon Arrival (Ugly Duckling Presse); Rivers Solomon's debut novel, An Unkindness of Ghosts (Akashic Books); and a poetry collection that I read pre-publication, forthcoming in spring 2019, Jaswinder Bolina's The 44th of July (Omnidawn). Each of these moving works adds something distinctive and necessary to the aesthetic landscape, as well as to the ideas in circulation about ourselves and our society.
Has public funding for the arts made a difference in your life and career as a writer?
Public funding for the arts has definitely made a difference for me! Both of the publishers of my poetry (Wesleyan University Press and the former Carolina Wren Press) have relied in part upon funding from the NEA or state and local arts councils to produce my collections. Additionally, I believe that many or all of the arts organizations where I have taken workshops or held residencies are supported by public funding. What organizations like Vermont Studio Center, MacDowell, Millay Colony for the Arts, the Community of Writers at Sq**w Valley, and, of course, Cave Canem have provided to me, in terms of time, space, and exposure to other artists, has been crucial to my development and productivity as a writer. And that's just to focus on my output. The flip-side involves the art I consume, as a book-buyer, museum-goer, theater-attender, etc. When I think about all the works I might not have encountered, without the funding that supported their creation and dissemination, I am really made aware of the profound importance of our collective investment in the arts.
If you could run into any author, contemporary or historical, at #AWP19, who would it be and what would you talk about?
Well, if I can let my fantasies run wild, I would hope to cross paths with Phillis Wheatley. I'd love to know more about her experience of creating art—and creating an artist-self—while negotiating a life of enslavement. I'd also ask her what happened to the manuscript of her second poetry collection, written after her manumission, which I'd give anything to be able to read. If only she had had access to public funding, rather than having to depend entirely on subscriptions to get her second book into print!
Evie Shockley is the author of semiautomatic, which was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize, and the new black, winner of the 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, among other collections of poetry. She has also published a critical study, Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry. Her poetry and essays appear widely in journals and anthologies. Her honors include the 2015 Stephen Henderson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry and the 2012 Holmes National Poetry Prize. Shockley is a Professor of English at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.