Poet Of The Week

Morgan Parker

     July 14–20, 2014

Morgan Parker’s first collection of poems, Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night, was selected by Eileen Myles for the 2013 Gatewood Prize and is forthcoming from Switchback Books in 2015. Recent poems are forthcoming from Tin House, jubilat and Forklift, Ohio. A graduate of NYU’s Creative Writing MFA program and a Cave Canem fellow, Morgan lives in Brooklyn with her dog Braeburn. She works as a poetry editor for Coconut Magazine and Education Director at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA).

Morgan What, Morgan Who?

     Do not bark up that tree. That tree will fall on you.
          –Jay Z

Yes and I am
dreading the New Year
I say to my mother
on Christmas when she asks
if I am really
that bitter. I spit
at the nickname
you hand me—a kink
in vinyl where
needle sticks
and repeats between
my legs. Leaving my lips
you’re cheap liquor
lusty and sad
over my blueprint.
Peep all these inches
left un-bruised, crowned
with dried leaves
and spilling
out of my shirt.
I have an appetite, make
lightposts go down when you
call me baby. Baby, don’t
forget who’s quitting who,
who is harvested
and who sows.
Careful with that
face of yours: you know
this weather
is my fault.
Trains get lost, roads flood
worry and charcoal.
better duck.

–Originally published in Forklift, Ohio, Winter 2013.

Tell us about the making of this poem.

This is from my Jay Z period. I’m really interested in channelling strong celebrity voices to write about my feelings. Performance. In this case (and in most cases, actually) I’m exploring anxiety, femininity, desire, sex, power and discomfort, but through HOV-colored glasses. So there’s play and interchange between the “vulnerable” feminine and the “all-mighty” masculine. The last two lines, of course, are straight-up lifted from Biggie, and it was really fun to repurpose that phrase for my own drop-the-mic purposes. I literally dropped a mic after reading this poem once.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I’m working on my second manuscript, There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé. I’m also polishing up poems in my first collection, Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night, coming out in March with Switchback Books.

I’m also working on a secret chapbook with Marisa Crawford that will include lots of poems called “Ryan Gosling Wearing a T-shirt of Macaulay Culkin Wearing a T-shirt of Ryan Gosling Wearing a T-shirt of Macaulay Culkin.”

What’s a good day for you?

I love cracking jokes, debating politics and plotting social change with my coworkers, but a good day is a writing day. I love having writerly friends over to my apartment to write, read, listen to records, drink wine or Bloody Marys, order Seamless, dance a little, submit to journals and talk about our horoscopes. A really good day is when those days turn into nights. And when those nights turn into brunch.

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

I moved to Brooklyn three years ago after five years in Manhattan, which is a place I barely remember anymore. Last year I moved from Clinton Hill to Bed-Stuy, right across from the O.D.B. mural, and I’m in love with it. I love living around so many folks of color, being close to my job at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) and being walking distance from friends. Also, Tip Top Bar and Grill.

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

All of it is good. Watching Nigerian soap operas while getting poetic justice braids, talking to my neighbors on their stoops while I’m walking the dog, spending too much money on sandwiches, having good G train luck, going to Cyclones games in Coney Island. Just, like, every day walking down the street with Illmatic in my headphones.

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

The homies, actually. Literally everybody I know. Sometimes I can’t believe it. I’ll look around at a party and be like, holy shit. I’m super lucky to chill on the regular with such brilliant minds. Some of them are: Matt Rohrer, Charif Shanahan, Ted Meyer, Sasha Fletcher, Natalie Eilbert, Marina Blitshteyn, Nalini Abhiraman, Brenda Shaughnessy, Montana Ray, Liz Clark Wessel, Mahogany Browne. They are all honest and beautifully true to themselves and their own aesthetics, which I super look up to. Also, Tracy K. Smith and Biggie. Absolute power.

Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?

Greenlight Bookstore on Fulton Street is right down the block from where I work, and I like to take work breaks there to visit shining, life-giving poet Angel Nafis and cop one of the recommended titles. The shop at my job, MoCADA, is the place for curated art books and critical race theory. Of course, Unnameable is the place I go when I’ve got hours to spend and want to be around that used book smell and go home with a stack.

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

The Brooklyn Museum, Fort Greene Park, Outpost Café, Stonehome Wine Bar, the C train. As far as I’m concerned, there aren’t many places to write in Brooklyn other than my couch.

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

I dig seeing movies at BAM. Brunch, drinks, dessert, dinner, or literally any meal at Maggie Brown on Myrtle Ave. Concerts at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Bed-Stuy block parties.

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

Dear friend Lizzie Harris’s Stop Wanting came out this year and is fantastic, as is Monica McClure’s chapbook Mala.

I recently re-read Cornelius Eady’s Brutal Imagination to try to cope with politics, and I can’t stop thinking about how haunting and musical it is.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate the television, and pills, and trees tied up
     with string

And what I think is that you should come over so we
     can order thai noodles and drink lemon vodka

For every sip in me as good and holy and trouble and
     bloomed as skin there’s always more of

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.

I drink like my father
and I laugh at my sin.
Sometimes the sun’s a jack
knife to my shoulders. I love
heavy and good. Biggie
spit the Crack Commandments and I pen
these: stay in Brooklyn
all weekend. Be a dodger
of the small thing that aches. Rob
men if you need to. They have enough.

Why Brooklyn?

Because Jay Z said so.