with Khalisa Rae Thompson:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Khalisa: I have always been a storyteller creating new worlds with images, a creative writer, and it’s always been an escape for me. A way to articulate the world in a new way. that helped me process trauma and joys in a new ways. My mom still has the Tupperware bins of my early fiction writing form when I was 6 years old. When I discovered Lucille Clifton, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, and James Baldwin, my life was forever changed.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Khalisa: I am really inspired by Tiana Clark, Dorothy Chan, Audre Lorde, Terrance Hayes, and Jericho Brown.
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Khalisa: I was standing in front of my undergraduate creative writing class and the director of the department heard me reciting poetry and told me I should do it for the rest of my life. I didn’t get serious about writing until that pivotal moment. She gave me permission to go full force, hone my craft, and envision a career.
Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?
Khalisa: I would definitely say that my college professors Claudia Rankine, Ada Limon. They taught me the craft of writing poetry, showed me how to be a critical poetry editor, and opened my eyes to so many different types of writing and the many different versions of what poetry can be.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & have any travels away from home influence your work?
Khalisa: So, I was born in Gary Indiana and being from the Midwest/outside Chicago definitely influenced my tone, dialect, approach, and vibrato. I think being from a major metropolitan, all Black city influences my subject matter and perspective as well of the inequities and disparities that people of color experience. It also showed me how much of pop culture is stolen and appropriated from Black street culture and that shows up in my writing. Then moving to the South definitely was a culture shock and inspired my writing and shifted my work to have more of a southern influence that reflects on nature, family, food, and matriachs. I feel like moving to the south made me get more in touch with my ancestory, history, and roots. That has made me writing more well-rounded and allows me to have more tools in my tool kit. I can make my writing sound like the street kid, like the proper private school girl, like the Southern belle, or the down home girl. I can take on many different voices and personas in my pieces. Traveling to Chile with Ada inspired my writing and helped me grow my skill in narrative writing and painting images.
Q6: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Khalisa: I would definitely say that my book Ghost in a Black Girls Throat is the most meaningful collection I’ve ever written because I can feel the direct impact its had with the culture and so many of my topics are timely and speaks to large social justice issues like racism, bigotry and sexism. It also is in conversation with the history of prejudice gentrification, and generational trauma in the Black culture. My poems confront and address important issues, and start important conversations. That said, I do think that my newer work is some of my bravest work. I wrote a letter to Cardi B and Meg the Stallion that got published in a dream publication- Electric Literature, and that made me feel empowered to talk about sex and desire on a public forum.
Q7: Favorite activities to relax?
Khalisa: I really love to dance and laugh. My favorite pasttime is watching funny movies with my husband, eating good food, or listening to good music- like jazz and motown classics. To relax, I color, journal, and do yoga. I also really like to just zone out to my favorite shows and movies and get lost in another world.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others?
“That’s what they will come for first.- the throat. They know that be your super power your furnace of rebellion. So they silence us before the coal burns.” – Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat
“I can be razor-backed
and spike-edged when he tries to skin me,
unscale my silvery back, debone my brazen
hen-hide. I will be foul-mouthed and crooked-necked.
I will be the chicken-head they know me to be,
if it will save my life.”- Livestock
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Khalisa: I am currently working on my Blk Southern romance novel, in addition to gathering stories of Blk queer women and femme folks that live in the South. Lastly, my poetry and art lyric collection is slated for publication in Jan/Feb 2022, called Unlearning Eden.
https://amzn.to/3sDOPjp for Khalisa’s book “Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat” a wonderful inspiring book. Buy today! https://redhenpress.org/products/ghost-in-a-black-girl-s-throat-by-khalisa-rae
Assistant Editor, Glass Poetry
Managing Editor, Think in Ink