Welcome back to our Ask a Poet blog series! Leading up to the 2018 Dodge Poetry Festival, we will be putting the spotlight on poets you can see at #DPF18, October 18-21. Learn more about a new Festival Poet every Wednesday and Friday, presented in no particular order.
Today, we’re talking with William Evans!
What are you currently reading?
Because I’ve been very interested in the intersection of home and place, I’ve been reading Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things (very excited for her new book coming as well). I’m also reading Terrance Hayes’ American Sonnet for My Past And Future Assassin and I always find my self revisiting Robert Hayden’s American Journal. I’m also slow walking my way through N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy. My non-fiction read right now is Mehrsa’s Baradaran’s book Color of Money.
If someone sitting next to you on an airplane asked you to describe your poetry, how would you describe it?
The phrase I fell in love with, coined by or at least repeated with great revelry by Vievee Francis, is radical normativity. My poetry doesn’t seek to cross any great chasm that isn’t easy to travel to now. I write about my life, my life experience, the future I fear and the future I want, as they unfold around and within me. I write about consequence and cost of what it means, for my longing, what it costs for me to live a life fulfilled, and as being black and visible, how that’s not the default comfort in the environment I live in.
When did you first discover poetry? What poets made you want to write?
I always read and wrote poems when I was young, but I didn’t take a critical eye towards the work until I was in my late 20s. I came from the performance world, so many of the poets that made me want to write could also perform to great effect. Those poets included Patricia Smith & Dasha Kelly primarily. That started me on the journey of valuing craft, and I had the opportunity to attend classes taught by Henri Cole. That was when I realized this was not only something I wanted to do, but something worth my fear of failure to accomplish.
What is the funniest/strangest response you’ve ever gotten to telling someone you are a poet?
“Oh, but I thought you said you were an athlete?” Or, “But you seem like, cool.” Or, “If you’re a poet, why do you work here?” The latter being the insinuation that poet meant famous poet or at least lucrative enough a vocation that working a day job seemed absurd. That probably made me laugh the hardest.
Have you ever written anything you were afraid to share?
All the time. A great majority of my poems. Because I draw upon very real circumstances, events, people, often eulogizing them in some way, there is a cost to doing so. Am I ever betraying a moment or trust? And not in a way of betraying privacy, but in a manner of, does a thing lose a significance if physically recorded and disseminated to those who can only be spectators? I think about this a great deal, but when I thought about it to the point of paralysis, I realized I wasn’t writing the poems that were demanded of me.
William Evans is an author, speaker, performer and instructor from Columbus, OH. As the founder of the Writing Wrongs Poetry Slam, William created one of the most reputable open mic and slam venues in the country. William is also the co-founder and editor-in chief of BlackNerdProblems.com, a website focused on pop culture and diversity. As an artist, William is one the most successful performance poets to come from Columbus and the state of Ohio as a whole. He appeared on three finals stages at the National level, most recently finishing fifth overall at the 2014 Individual World Poetry Slam. He has performed on eight Columbus National Teams while being an artist in residence for both the Columbus Wexner Center and Columbus City Schools in beginning in 2012. William is as a Callaloo Fellow, the poetry recipient of 2016 Sustainable Arts Foundation Grant and the 2018 Spirit of Columbus Foundation Grant. William’s newest poetry manuscript, Still Can’t Do My Daughter’s Hair, was released on Button Poetry in Fall 2017.