In Your Next Beach Read, we want to introduce you to a new author every day in June in the hopes that you’ll find the next book you want to take with you to the beach, the pool, or the comforts of air conditioning.
Today’s author is Quraysh Ali Lansana, author of the skin of dreams.
What’s your name and where are you from?
Quraysh Ali Lansana. I was born in Enid, Oklahoma, lived in Chicago for 28 years. & Brooklyn for two years.
How long have you been writing? How did you start?
I have been writing poetry for 35 years and nonfiction for 40 years. I started writing poetry while an undergraduate journalism student at the University of Oklahoma. I wrote poems to express my truths and opinions because I could not do so as a journalist.
Who are some of your influences?
Miss Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Marilyn Nelson, Langston Hughes, Wislawa Szymborska.
What is your book about?
the skin of dreams is a remembering, an offering and a gathering of geographies. Traversing twenty-three years of earth and breath, my first new and collected works roadmaps small town Oklahoma to southside Chicago in compelling poems that question, surprise and dare. As a direct descendent of the Black Arts Movement and last student of Miss Gwendolyn Brooks, I explore the complicated internal and external terrain of Blackness and history from a post-King, post-Kennedy childhood through the election of the first non-White president while grappling with the definition of home. These are poems that cry, sing, scream and see.
Where did you get the idea?
One of my mentors suggested it was time to publish a new and collected works.
How long did it take you to finish it?
23 years of poetry are collected in this book. The section of new poems were written over five year period.
Is this your first book, or have you written more than one?
This my 20th book, and my ninth book of poetry.
We all like to write about people we know, even if we never name them. Who are some people who inspired characters or situations?
There are many poems in the collection about or inspired by members of my family. There are just as many poems that were inspired by moments in history or politics, particularly as they relate to the Black American experience, which is by no means monolithic.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever got?
“Athletes stretch, dancers stretch. Poets should stretch. Create craft or theme-based hurdles for yourself, then try new ways to clear them. You will grow.” Reginald Gibbons
Where can we buy your book?
Quraysh Ali Lansana is author of eight books of poetry, three textbooks, three children’s books, editor of eight anthologies, and coauthor of a book of pedagogy. He is a former faculty member of both the Writing Program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Drama Division of The Juilliard School. Lansana served as Director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University from 2002-2011, where he was also Associate Professor of English/Creative Writing until 2014.
Our Difficult Sunlight: A Guide to Poetry, Literacy & Social Justice in Classroom & Community (with Georgia A. Popoff) was published in March 2011 by Teachers & Writers Collaborative and was a 2012 NAACP Image Award nominee.
His most recent books include The Whiskey of Our Discontent: Gwendolyn Brooks as Conscience & Change Agent, w/Georgia A. Popoff (Haymarket Books, 2017); Revise the Psalm: Work Celebrating the Writings of Gwendolyn Brooks w/Sandra Jackson-Opoku (Curbside Splendor, 2017); A Gift from Greensboro (Penny Candy Books, 2016); The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop w/Kevin Coval and Nate Marshall (Haymarket Books, 2015) and The Walmart Republic w/ Christopher Stewart (Mongrel Empire Press, 2014). the skin of dreams is his first book of collected poems.