Poet Of The Week

Kindall Gant

     March 13–19, 2023

Kindall Gant (she/they) is a Black femme poet and New Orleans native based in Brooklyn. She experiments with visual storytelling as liberation through themes of home, heritage and history, bringing poems into conversation with expressive forms like film, visual art, music and photography. She has received support from Cave Canem, Obsidian, the Poetry Foundation and MASS MoCA, among other arts institutions. Her work appears in TORCH, a literary magazine for Black women writers, the What a Time to Be Alive zine carried at the Hopscotch Reading Room in Berlin, and the 1619 Speaks anthology forthcoming in April from the Sims Library of Poetry. Gant was named a Brooklyn Poets Fellow last year for study in Starr Davis’s “Ars Poetica: Our Relationship with Poetry” workshop.

Author photo by Carolina Porras-Monroy

time capsule

—after Howardena Pindell’s Autobiography: Oval Memory #1 (1980–81)

when i was seven, i almost drowned / so did new orleans / in a multicolored swirl on channel 4 / didn’t know hurricanes could have eyes / until the night before / we relaxed / after packing / rocked in porch chairs until mosquito bites bloomed & streetlights came on / after sunset / the next day, we drove / i-10 traversing lake pontchartrain / for hours / looking out, i wondered how / to name / blue / which was / water / or sky / imagined my mother saying baptism / could see my father nodding in silence / until we arrived / to mississippi / where the moon / was full / benson hedges menthol & marlboro 100s smoke circling / what we lost / days in, it was power at my uncle’s / again / i sat in the car listening to anything / on the radio / other than news / looking at the sun / that august yellow like yolk / heat slipping through eggshell / cracks / like levees lining my crescent city / incomplete mounds of man-made earth & river / 80% underwater / folks who couldn’t wade in blue-black, no longer lived / the revolution wasn’t televised in 2005, but genocide masquerading as natural / disaster wiping away the city before / katrina, a memory / this wasn’t easy / nothing was / about the city / engulfed in flood water / helicopter blades whirred / unfulfilled promises of sustenance & rescue / troops who knew how to shoot & kill / were / more often than not, willing to do so / without reason / the nopd kept ham sandwiches / covering up murders they committed / greenlit by the chief of police / america’s hands / washed by media / attention diverted to photos & footage / shattered storefronts & headlines of looting / the president safe / on vacation at his texas ranch / while x-codes marked mortality by spray paint / uprooted trees leaned with waterlogged bark / swelling like bodies adrift / from a home / unidentifiable & beyond reach / at seven, it doesn’t make any sense / we are living / but away / only multicolored strings connect us / stretching across land & water / swirling around oblivion / the colors a kaleidoscope of traveling light / in memoriam of what was & could have been


Brooklyn Poets · Kindall Gant, "time capsule"

Tell us about the making of this poem.

Fairly early in the revision process, I encountered Howardena Pindell’s Autobiography: Oval Memory #1 and was captivated by the texture of the work. Layered fans of paint, paper, fragmented postcards and photographs swirl into a multitude of perspectives. Following a traumatic concussion, Pindell struggled to piece together life before her accident. She used physical relics across mixed media to create a new understanding of the gaps. Understanding Katrina, which I experienced as a child and reprocessed years later as the city changed, felt similar. Like many other children, I never had anyone sit down and talk to me about my experience. I pieced together what happened back home from the constant media cycle. With “time capsule,” I wanted to create a poem that shifted, a failed archive of personal and collective memory, also emulating the brain distortion each time a past event is remembered, inevitably making it different.

What are you working on right now?

I am at work on a collection of poetry titled Moonshots, an Afrofuturistic exploration of manifestations and meditations through the ekphrastic form. Interpreting ekphrasis loosely to include all works of art.

What’s a good day for you?

A sunny weekend day spent at any park on a blanket or bench with a captivating read, a matcha and a jalapeño cheddar cream cheese bagel in hand would be picturesque. If I’m feeling up to it, a museum visit or gallery hop accompanied by a long scenic walk somewhere new would be equally satisfying.

What brought you to Brooklyn?

As a transplant, I was reminded of home by the slowness of this borough in comparison to Manhattan. The first apartment I found was here in Brooklyn, during the latter years of my time at Sarah Lawrence College. I moved almost every year, living in Kensington, Ocean Hill, Bushwick and Bed-Stuy before a short stint in West Harlem and landing in Sunset Park. I was one of those people who came for school, never left and loved the familiar feeling of culture and community across the neighborhoods I’ve lived in.

Tell us about your neighborhood. How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other neighborhoods or places you’ve lived?

I moved to a beautiful, naturally-lit brownstone in Sunset Park a little over a week ago. Since living in Brooklyn, I’ve oscillated between Bed-Stuy and Bushwick mostly, so this is a nice change of pace. Everything I need is within walking distance, ticking off places on the food guide is bringing me joy, the park views of the city are better than I could have imagined and there’s even a gym nearby I will think about, but likely won’t go to. I look forward to community activities like weekend farmers markets and swimming when the pool opens up again this summer. This neighborhood feels like Brooklyn’s best-kept secret, and I’d like for it to stay that way, amidst rampant gentrification.

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

After graduation, I was working in Boerum Hill as a barista at Blue Bottle Coffee and interning in publishing. One afternoon, a customer threatened to call the cops when I attempted to explain that to fill his cup with more coffee, I’d have to make another pourover. As the situation began to escalate, we called our manager who had just left to go home and was at a train station nearby. We made it clear that the customer had threatened us and called us out of our names, and that we had asked him to leave and he refused. Our manager came back and gave the customer a refund instead of insisting he was no longer welcome there. Clearly, a little over $5 was worth more than creating a safe work environment at the height of the pandemic. I quit shortly after this and a handful of other microaggressions, with no real plan. I was on partial unemployment, living off a small internship stipend and no savings. While that wasn’t an objectively good experience, I got a part-time job in publishing months later. It came around when I desperately needed it and led to my career today.

What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that here? Why or why not?

Though I’ve been writing for some time, I haven’t owned my poet identity until recently. Through various online workshops, residencies and other events in the literary world over a year of concentrated effort, I feel grateful for what’s budding. I didn’t feel as connected or comfortable enough to delve into the kind of work I naturally resonated with in undergrad. Today, there’s more of a sense of ease and inspiration when speaking about art and getting perspectives on poems from folks in my art and literary communities, which for me is lending itself to more rare and impactful relationships.

Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.

Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Asiya Wadud, Starr Davis, Janelle Tan and Jason Koo.

Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?

I’ve had a handful of mentors since I started my writing journey. Most influential to me as a younger aspirational poet would be Rachel Eliza Griffiths. She was the only Black woman professor I had in undergrad and the only writing professor of color, which was more monumental at the time than I knew. Her course “Shapes, Self, and Bridges: An Exploration of Poetry & Memoir” also explored integrating visual elements into the writing process and still informs my practice in ekphrasis today. When I needed it most, she gave me the best advice that I received to date: to keep writing.

Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.

Taylor Johnson’s poetry collection Inheritance felt like the church I needed growing up.

What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?

Embarrassingly, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer is still on the list, and so are Deesha Philyaw’s The Secret Lives of Church Ladies and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which has continued to come up in various conversations over the years. I feel like I can always make time for poems, even collections, but fiction and nonfiction prove harder to get through in one go these days.

Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?

While my preference is to read one book at a time, I am a book publicist. Historically I have worked at artbook publishers on general-interest titles, but I am now working with nonfiction. Monday through Friday, 9–5, if I’m not reading multiple books at the same time, I am engaging with more than a handful of books in a way that feels similar. Personally, I am reading books more at random as of late. While I have a wishlist of must-reads, the driving force of staying on top of my work-life reading balance is my goal to read a number of books each year that matches my age. I prefer physical books but read digital texts on occasion. I take the most abridged of notes if I want to revisit something that stood out to me.

What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?

Don’t get me wrong, there are traditional, more formulaic poems in my wheelhouse. You’ll find the sonnet, ghazal, elegy and more variations. But I love a loose interpretation. Knowing the rules to break them. But I recently learned about the Oulipo group of French-speaking writers and mathematicians who used constraints as a technique to create work. And I think it would be beneficial to challenge myself in experimentation on the other side of the spectrum. To strictly follow a predetermined structure and set of rules and see how my use of language takes shape around restriction.

Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

Other than the cafés and parks I frequent, I generally like to read and write while traveling and exploring new places. In a small sense, on the subway when I catch a seat, or can swipe my phone’s book pages and/or type in my notes app while holding the rail. In a larger sense, I’ve been privileged to receive funded residency opportunities where I’ve had amazing studio spaces and comfortable bedrooms. I look forward to more getaway trips where I can read and write in Airbnbs / hotels domestically and internationally that evoke the same sentiment.

What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?

I can be such a homebody, so other than my new apartment, the spaces I love include, but are not limited to: the whole of Tompkins Ave in Bed-Stuy for the good vibes, Black-owned businesses and block parties. Sunset Park, which lives up to its name, along with Herbert Von King and Maria Hernandez parks. Drip Coffee, my old go-to spot. Ugly Duckling Presse in the Old American Can Factory because binding books and chatting about everything literary is always a great time. Yafa Café, which will be my new spot. The first time I was there, I spilled coffee on myself. Which is a sign of good luck. The HiHi Room for their expensive veggie sliders that I shouldn’t, but occasionally treat myself to. HAUSEN, a change-making gallery I discovered through a friend. Every branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, naturally. Aunts Et Uncles for the food and because I love any reason to go to Little Caribbean.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate the stories we share by language without apology,

And what I unearth in violence you plant more tenderly—imagine,

For every seed is a piece of me as good, if not better, when nurtured by you.

Why Brooklyn?

Because trees grow in Brooklyn, because of its rich culture and because I’m always close to water.