Micro Interview with Kelly Harris

Kelly Harris 1 sq

photo credit: Jarvis DeBerry

Bayou Magazine is pleased to announce that Kelly Harris will act as our Guest Poetry Editor for the 2017-2018 submission season.

Kelly Harris received her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and Cave Canem. Most recently, her multi-media poetic essay, “Dear Naomi (and Black Girls Everywhere”) received national attention. Her work can be found in Torch Literary Arts, The National Parks Service Centennial Commemoration publication with Sonia Sanchez, Caduceus Magazine, The Southern Review, and the anthology, Say it Loud: Poems for James Brown. Her poetry CD, Revival, was released in 2016.

Kalamu ya Salaam has called Harris’s work, “the sound of wonderful.” Recently, we asked her a few questions to help our readers get to know her.

Who are your favorite poets?

My favorite poet depends on what I must learn/practice on a particular day. When I need to find my music, I go to Sonia Sanchez. I go to Yusef Komunyakaa when I need to stop rushing and pay attention to detail. Rita Dove, when I want to be graceful. Brooks, Hughes, Neruda, Lorca, Olds, Plath are poets I always return to for guidance and enjoyment.

If I had to shout out some contemporary poets, Aracelis Girmay, Kwame Dawes, and Nikky Finney would be on my short list.

What strikes you first when reading a poem?

The first line is how the writer asks me for a date with the poem.

What are you hoping to read as the guest Poetry Editor of Bayou?

I’ll be looking for works that show courage, that make music. Poems that won’t let me check out.

What are you currently reading and listening to?

The books that are currently on my night stand: The Fat Black Woman’s Poems (Virago Poets),
The Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks,
Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History of the Mississippi Delta Music. I’ve been listening to Oddisee, Fela Kuti, Emeli Sande, Monica McIntyre, and Betty Davis.

You’re very active in the New Orleans writing community. Will you tell us a little about your work in the city?

I’m a writer, but I also believe in building community and institutions to empower and sustain writers and audiences. I have served on the board of STAIR NOLA, Big Class NOLA and now the Tennessee Williams Festival. I’ve been an advocate for 2nd-grade readers and for adult writers in New Orleans, and I would encourage all writers to volunteer for writing organizations and publications.