Aricka Foreman on The Social Distance Reading Series
Aricka Foreman is an American poet, essayist and digital curator from Detroit, MI. Author of the chapbook Dream with a Glass Chamber, and Salt Body Shimmer (YesYes Books), she has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Callaloo, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She lives in Chicago, IL.
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.
Salt Body Shimmer delivers girls and women with their hearts and strides unbroken, however provoked by deadening violences. Aricka Foreman’s deft lyric is both canopy and camouflage, beyond able to outwork predators and the hard silences they will against laughter, booty clap, and no. Aricka Foreman’s debut collection declares its right to everyplace, finds its heroes, and offers “a spell for everything.” I’ve not read or heard poems like these. “Out of a grave vision,” Foreman condenses the accumulated pain of subjugations and raises a dazzling mist to cool our eyes, our tired flesh.
—Ladan Osman, Exiles of Eden
The music of Salt Body Shimmer is deep bass and improvisation. Here, both skill and freestyle show how the two coexist intentionally, defiantly, the lyrics and rhythm winding through mental and physical consciousness with reversals that equal each other in power and artistry. What we think we know, what exists and what pretends, a people and a person, a city and a history all shapeshift and multiply as they converse, sometimes in the same line: “while an ancient thing waits, takes a drag / off my breath.” Aricka Foreman’s work haunts us with aliveness — nights, June, glass, flame, lush green, silver pans, wet ground. Even the unsaid personifies an embodied presence of memory. “The sea knows everything / And forgets no one,” she writes, and, “Sun drunk and bruised,” with a soul-deep Detroit voice carrying through on a blues moan, “blues inevitable,” Foreman’s crystalline début catapults the language of love and suffering — that is to say, poetry — toward its most effective and affecting state: transformation.
—Khadijah Queen, I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On
How do you begin a new piece of writing? What conditions help your writing process?
I begin with a question, usually from notes or fragments I’ve scribbled in my journal or typed on my phone while riding the train. I haven’t discovered a schedule not so easily influenced by the seasons (especially living in the Midwest), but I often write poems in the evenings. And of course the poems come urgently the more I read.
What was an early experience that taught you language has power?
My grandmother’s storytelling. She threads these incredible, historical narratives and places throughout her experiences as a child of the Great Migration. From Mississippi haints to B.B. King’s garage practices down the block from her Chicago home, securing a medical records job at the University of Michigan without a high school diploma. Her Southern lilt and syntax softens (or sharpens), without sacrificing the impact of her intended lessons.
What poets or writers do you continually go back to?
Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Christina Sharpe, James Baldwin and Saidiya Hartman help me think. Lucille Clifton, Adam Zagajewski, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Gwendolyn Brooks, Suzan Lori Parks, Adrienne Rich, Ai, Jack Gilbert, and Federico Garcia Lorca push me to give attention to the world. I’m drawn to/influenced by many mediums. Visual artists and filmmakers, Lorna Simpson, Ja’Tovia Gary, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Carrie Mae, Rashid Johnson, and musicians Alice Coltrane, Nina Simone and MeShell Ndegeocello.
What is your favorite childhood or adolescent book?
My grandparents had a rich library, so usually I’d just pick a random book off the shelf and read: the Afro-American Writing anthology introduced me to Alain Locke, Phillis Wheatley, Carolyn Rogers, Robert Hayden and a host of incredible writers. In high school I read The Tempestt and spent the summer before my senior year reading every Shakespeare play I could get my hands on.
What are your thoughts/experiences on social distancing?
Challenging, difficult, curious with possibility. I’m on social media more (than Instagram) which feels strange. I see a deep desire/urgency for connection, though I naturally tend to live as much in the 3-D world as possible. At times the dialogues feel noisy, but there’ve been great teach-ins, readings and concerts that make it worthwhile. I love being a homebody. But I do miss ear-hustling on transit and the occasional dance party.
Where can we find you? Link to your blog or website:
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.