Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Ashanti Anderson.
But first, I am excited to announce the launch of DIY MFA Radio Insiders program, a monthly newsletter, especially for our podcast listeners.
Each month, you’ll get an email from our podcast producer with recaps of the most recent episodes, a curated Listening List of episodes on a particular theme, and other fun goodies we only share via email. Best of all, it’s free to join! The theme for January is Debut Authors, and you can become an insider by signing up with your email at diymfa.com/insiders.
In this episode Ashanti Anderson and I discuss:
- How being an overthinker influences her poetry and the messages she wants to share.
- Why setting clear boundaries helps her guide the conversation around her writing.
- When she turns to prose poetry and why she thinks it defies hard and fast craft rules.
Plus, her #1 tip for writers.
About Ashanti Anderson
Ashanti Anderson (she/her) is a Black Queer Disabled poet, screenwriter, and playwright. Her debut short poetry collection, Black Under, is the winner of the Spring 2020 Black River Chapbook Competition at Black Lawrence Press. Her poems have appeared in World Literature Today, POETRY magazine, and elsewhere in print and on the web.
The poem from which Black Under derives its title opens with a resounding declaration: “I am black and black underneath.” These words are an anthem that reverberates throughout Ashanti Anderson’s debut short collection. We feel them as we navigate her poems’ linguistic risks and shifts and trumpets, as we straddle scales that tip us toward trauma’s still-bloody knife in one turn then into cutting wit and shrewd humor in the next. We hear them amplified through Anderson’s dynamic voice, which sings of anguish and atrocities and also of discovery and beauty.
Black Under layers outward perception with internal truth to offer an almost-telescopic examination of the redundancies—and incongruences—of marginalization and hypervisibility. Anderson torques the contradictions of oppression, giving her speakers the breathing room to discover their own agency. In these pages, declarations are reclamations, and joy is not an aspiration but a birthright.
For the poet, these historically resonant questions of Black power and pain can be explored through the subjects’ consciousness of a constant gaze. “Black culture means being the creative and artistic zeitgeist of America, and often-times, popular culture around the world,” Anderson says. “We are trend-setters and our dialect, apparel, mannerisms, behaviors, and attitudes are routinely adopted by others. In my sole opinion, a big part of the Black experience is ‘putting on,’ i.e. carrying yourself in a way that makes you look and feel immortal… being constantly aware of your impending death encourages you to find freedom in expression.”
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Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome!