Ambalila Hemsell on The Social Distance Reading Series
Ambalila Hemsell is the author of Queen in Blue. You can find her poems in wildness, The American Literary Review, Fairy Tale Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Tacoma, WA.
In the wake of book event cancellations due to COVID-19, this pop-up series is designed to offer poets a platform for launching new collections of poems. Stay tuned for a new reading each Wednesday and Sunday.
—Airea D. Matthews, author of Simulacra
How do you begin a new piece of writing? What conditions help your writing process?
Usually a line or phrase or image will appear in my head at an untimely moment and since I’m an amateur, I won’t have a notebook with me, and I’ll just try desperately to remember it until I’m back at my computer. Then I’ll write it down and see if it is part of a poem. After that, it’s eons of revision, and for that part, I just need music and time.
What was an early experience that taught you language has power?
My mother read Salman Rushdie’s wonderful children’s book Haroun and the Sea of Stories to me at a very young age. It was this amazing confluence for the two of us of our shared love of the environment and of storytelling, but it was also this portal through which she shared all these references to Indian culture. That book was everything to me.
What poets or writers do you continually go back to?
Poets: Anne Carson, Lucille Clifton, Natalie Diaz, Danez Smith, Jack Gilbert, Aracelis Girmay, Robert Hass, Mary Oliver, Ilya Kaminsky. Novelists: Louise Erdrich, Margaret Atwood, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Arundhati Roy.
What is your favorite childhood or adolescent book?
Well, I already mentioned Haroun and the Sea of Stories, so I guess I’ll stick with it.
What are your thoughts/experiences on social distancing?
At first, like most of us, I think, I was devastated by the stay-at-home order. But I’ve adapted fairly quickly. I like spending time with my kids more than I thought I would, and I appreciate the slower pace. I’m mostly just grateful that I have a safe, comfortable home to shelter in.
Where can we find you? Link to your blog or website:
You can follow me on instagram @_ambalievable_ and find me online at ambalila.com
The Social Distance Reading Series
Brought to you by The Vermont School and Green Mountains Review
We’re thrilled to host The Social Distance Reading Series, a collaboration between Green Mountains Review and The Vermont School poets. In the wake of book event cancellations due to COVID-19, this pop-up series is designed to offer poets a platform for launching new collections of poems. At this point, we are focusing on collections by poets whose book events have been cancelled between January through May 2020.
Stay tuned for a new reading each Wednesday and Sunday.
–Didi Jackson, Major Jackson, Kerrin McCadden, and Elizabeth Powell, series curators.
–Kylie Gellatly, editorial assistant, interviewer.