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.
Been a little over year
Of people having to be reminded of what black is
A reminder of the anger and a reminder of the sadness
Still the fact is
It shouldn’t take a trauma for you to understand a trauma
Only thing we are doing is piling it up
Adding a comma
Some try to be empathetic others will just call it drama
And God got something for they ass
I’m a call it karma
What goes around comes back around
And let’s just use it to describe 2020
We traded chains and shackles
For cuffs and death
Something we saw too many
A nation went from uniting like minded people
To further put a division between everyone
To the point that folks can’t even be subtle with their racism
So what can one do?
We continue to be a voice
We continue to be the change
We continue to persevere
We have to…
We have to withstand any and everything
Now so those that come after us don’t have to as hard
Just as generation after generation had to
Just remember me as the bridge
Someone on the journey to a better life
Give me my flowers while I’m here
And not just on Juneteenth
And don’t forget me when I’m gone
Bio: Follow R.D. Johnson on twitter @r_d_Johnson R.D. Johnson is a pushcart nominee, a best of the net nominee for Fevers of the Mind "(Not Just On) Juneteenth" Reggie is an author reigning out of Cincinnati, Ohio. At the age of 9, he found a love for writing while on summer vacation. With influences from music, Reggie has created a rhythmic style of writing to tell his personal experiences and beyond. Reggie has several books available on all major online retailers and his work can be seen in various literary magazines. He currently has two columns, Drunken Karaoke featured on Daily Drunk Magazine & REPLAYS featured on The Poetry Question. https://thepoetryquestion.com/category/replay-rdj/A Review from “Thank You For the Content III” by R.D. Johnson (Reggie D. Johnson)4 Poems by R.D. Johnson : Malcolm & Martin, Angels, Dr. King’s Dream & February 1st (re-post)
Built like Malcolm, that’s the X in me Think we just in the middle, the thought perplexes me Built like Martin Luther, no wonder my name mean king And continue one day at a time Walking in his dream
Angels watch over me And don’t let the devil get up under me A lot of evil planning they six feet so they can put me under see Six feet has become the socially acceptable distance I have people farther away taken from me in an instance Thinking about the circumstances got me withdrawing my defenses See the pain through my lenses Lather all my feelings, watch it repeat as it rinses
I got angels over me Waiting to give my wings I still gotta do a few more things Reach a few more dreams Right now things don’t look like what it seems Feel like we’re in a balancing act Keeping it together on the beams Right now the world is holding it together But trying to bust at the seams
I got angels over me Watching over ensure I’m blessed Diminishing my stress Monitoring my success Always hungry for more Never settling for less
Angels watching over me Since they were taken from me too soon I wish I could sit and chat with them all In the same room Wish I could see my cousin one more time Call me RJ one, my favorite nickname of mine Wish I could visit my grandpa like I used to I hope you proud of me for the things I did do Wish I was I can see my uncle now And create my own stories I want all of them to say in unison to me not to worry Tell me this world is a scary place at times and that things will get better And that they’ll be with me all the way no matter the storm to weather
Dr. King’s Dream
If Martin Luther King’s dream became reality Ope there goes gravity Or whatever Eminem said People would lose themselves Over the realization That this is not the equality that he spoke of all these years ago This currently is not the peace he spoke of People would rather take a piece of justice into their own hands rather than make peace Because between their two fingers is all the peace some need Versus putting an index and middle finger up any day to actually stand for peace If Dr King’s dream became a reality We could stop living in this nightmare Maybe the majority could be woke like some of us To the point that they really open their eyes See their actions over years have led to this demise As it come to no surprise In order for one side to win over the other There must be an eye on the prize And look at the fucking trophy they want A country in shambles If Dr. King’s dream became a reality Then none of this strife would currently be happening
If you think that February 1st Is just a recognition of my melanin Then you would be the first to be mistaken This is not meant to awaken Unnerving thoughts but to serve as a reminder That if last year was any indicator That Black Lives Have. Will. And Always. Matter Time has shown only distorted views Where you see only pigments of achievements Because the rest of light is darkened by bloodshed and destruction We have fought so many years just to have a seat at the table Look these people in the eye And tell them I have something to say My voice matters My being matters My representation matters I am more than entertainment I am more than your fool I am more than your jester I am more Countless movements And we’re keep walking until we stampede over the divide and minimize the cracks in society Mother earth’s backbone is aching from the humans stepping on us We’re not roaches We’re not pesticides You’re going to sit and listen to my inner voice As it resides in the emotions of these lines I will tell you this Black isn’t history History is Black And when we can see the distinction Maybe both sides can finally relax
Bio: Follow R.D. Johnson on twitter @r_d_Johnson R.D. Johnson is a pushcart nominee, a best of the net nominee for Fevers of the Mind “(Not Just On) Juneteenth” Reggie is an author reigning out of Cincinnati, Ohio. At the age of 9, he found a love for writing while on summer vacation. With influences from music, Reggie has created a rhythmic style of writing to tell his personal experiences and beyond. Reggie has several books available on all major online retailers and his work can be seen in various literary magazines. He currently has two columns, Drunken Karaoke featured on Daily Drunk Magazine & REPLAYS featured on The Poetry Question. https://thepoetryquestion.com/category/replay-rdj/