Poet Of The Week

Kamilah Aisha Moon

     March 24–30, 2014

A recipient of fellowships to the Prague Summer Writing Institute, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Cave Canem and the Vermont Studio Center, Kamilah Aisha Moon‘s work has been featured in several journals and anthologies, including Harvard Review, jubilat, Sou’wester, The Awl, Oxford American, Lumina, Callaloo, Bloom and Gathering Ground. A teacher of English and creative writing at various institutions, Moon is the author of She Has a Name (Four Way Books, 2013) and holds an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She will read for the Brooklyn Poets Reading Series on Friday, April 4, at Dumbo Sky with Roger Reeves and Tina Chang.

Me and My Friends Circa 1981

We liked sitting on the swings

eating 25-cent frozen fruit cups

and spitting out the Styrofoam

Depending on the mood of the day

we’d roll around on our blacktop

skating rink or ride to Fleming’s Market

on banana-seat bikes with plastic streamers

in the handlebars

At least half of us walked around

wearing constant Kool-Aid mustaches

and fresh knee scabs

We played hide-n-seek before

everyone discovered the fun

of hiding in pairs

and it was always cool

to make a sidewalk gallery

Henry O. Tanners, chocolate

Matisses and Picassos armed

with Crayolas and pastel chalk

would spread out on Lenore St.

to express ourselves

Making our mark on the inner city

in something other than blood

–From She Has A Name, Four Way Books, 2013.

Tell us about the making of this poem.

It’s interesting that you selected this one from the collection. This is one of the first poems I ever published, and it has “survived” long enough to make it into the book. I was 19, and it was a response to a newspaper article I read about a former classmate being murdered in the streets of the neighborhood I lived in until my family moved when I was about 11. The article described a wasteland, detailing all of the illegal activity that it had become a hot spot for … so I was mourning that friend, and I wanted to make a record of that area when it was still the family-friendly, safe haven we used to know.

What are you working on right now?

Many things … I’m writing essays and a new collection of poetry is taking shape. Like other writers that teach, I’m looking forward to the summer when I can give my projects as much attention as possible.

What’s a good day for you?

Mom cooking breakfast with no hog … #IceCube. Seriously, a good day is a few hours where I get lost in a new draft or a revision, and I’m completely surprised by what is on the screen or page. A great day is when this happens, and I also get to spend time with a good friend or talk to my family.

How long have you lived in Brooklyn? What neighborhood do you live in? What do you like most about it?

I’ve lived in Brooklyn for almost 6 years, but I’ve lived in NY for 10 years. I currently live in Sunset Park. I like that it is laid back, and there’s a nice mix of cultures living there. Some of the best Mexican food and dim sum I’ve had since I’ve lived here, and Sunset Park is lovely. High on a hill, you have a great view of Manhattan and the Verrazano Bridge from up there.

Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad or in between.

I used to live in Crown Heights. I LOVED it because I could easily walk to the Botanical Gardens, The Brooklyn Museum, the Library and Prospect Park, saunter down tree-lined Eastern Parkway. I had a short commute to one of my jobs as well. But my apartment was burglarized, and I lost a draft of a novel I started on a laptop that was stolen. I hate that such a violation marred what had been a well-suited place for me prior to this happening.

Favorite Brooklyn poet(s), dead and/or alive?

This is tough … Aracelis Girmay, John Murillo, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Brenda Shaughnessy, Tracy K. Smith, Tyehimba Jess, Tina Chang and D. Nurkse are high on my list. But there are so many! When I read a book more than once and I’m able to say several lines off the top of my head, I know someone’s work has been a cell-changer for me.

Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?

Greenlight is nice—the staff is particularly friendly and helpful there. BookCourt is great too.

Favorite places to read and write in Brooklyn (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

I’m pretty easy with this … I’ll write anywhere. I’ve recently started hanging out at Connecticut Muffin in Fort Greene because it’s close to Atlantic but not crowded usually. And they have a hot cinnamon tea I really like. When it’s nice out, I like to read on a bench somewhere.

Favorite places to go in Brooklyn not involving reading or writing?

The Promenade when the weather is pleasant, Court and Smith Streets in Carroll Gardens to browse shops or dine, DUMBO and Brooklyn Bridge Park for many reasons.

Last awesome book(s)/poem(s) you read?

Revising the Storm by Geffrey Davis is a beautiful book, as well as Difficult Fruit by Lauren K. Alleyne. Viral by Suzanne Parker makes its mark. Topaz by Brian Komei Dempster and Straight Razor by Randall Mann are teaching me things.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate thriving after great struggle,
And what I breathe you should remember and reify,
For every word fired in the kiln of me as good
     furniture for you.

If you have time, write a nine-line poem using these end-words (in whatever order) from Jay Z’s “Brooklyn Go Hard”: father, Dodger, jack, rob, sin, pen, love, Brooklyn, Biggie.

Time won’t give me time, unfortunately #CultureClub. Maybe I’ll have something for the reading on the 4th!

Why Brooklyn?

Why not? And many of my great loves are here.