"If ya don't know, now you know": I'll be publishing a new book in 2018 with Northwestern University Press. Northwestern? What happened with you and UGA? You want me to fight them for you? No, no. Things are fine with UGA. We hope to get some version of a new and selected edited in the near future. In fact, I thought that was what I was working on, but the "new" part took on its own book-life. I looked up, and there was an unexpected full manuscript of new work.
I've never happened upon a new book project. My books have always been planned out. (In fact, my next two collections of poems, not including the new and selected, are planned out). But after working with Erika Stevens editing what was an N&S project, I showed that to Parneshia Jones at Northwestern and she made me a believer that there was a critical mass of new work. And even from that moment, which was about summer 2016, the manuscript has changed and tightened so much. That is one thing I am always telling beginning writers. No matter how much editing you think you've done, there is an extra degree of scrutiny you gain access to once you know--know for certain--something is going into the perceived permanence of print publication.
Nikky Finney has always been a role model for me (she even trained my earliest poetry teacher--Kyle Coma-Thompson--who I consider the Qui Gon Jinn to my young Obi Wan). So to join her and other hard-working humble-brilliant blk woman poets like Patricia Smith and Vievee Francis at NWUP . . . I feel like Kevin Durant getting to go to Golden State.
Oh, yeah. The book is called ANAGNORISIS--that moment of recognition, or awareness, the hero endures in a traditional tragedy--be that an awareness of the true nature of a deed or of one's own vulnerability. My book focuses on the American atmosphere around the time that Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri. At that time, I was preparing for a three month return trip to China. Passing through that "East"/"West" threshold, at that particular moment, something about the vulnerability and exhaustion I was feeling in America as a blk man synced with the vulnerability and exhaustion I felt at times in China. (And otherness--my g-d, the otherness.)
It's an ambitious book, and I am still finding the language to properly describe it, but I feel good about what will land before readers' eyes. Honest Engine, for me, was a labor of refinement--wanting to get everything as right as even as I could to make a prize-winning book. This new book is different. It is a book of release, of freedom of speak. And just getting to that point with one's voice is an accomplishment.
Preview: Two key poems from the book will be in print this summer. Tin House has "In 2016, the African-American Poet Kyle Dargan Is Asked to Consider Writing More Like the African-American Poet Ross Gay." And Gulf Coast has "Another Poem Beginning with a Bullet." If you want to know what I'll be working with in 2018, you can start there.