You learn some things after three books, or at least you should. Some of it is knowledge related to the craft of writing and some is savvy related to the business of publishing. Writing (and publishing) keeps you learning.
It took 2015 and my publishing this fourth book--one I bled for--to learn not to invest too much energy in the value system of the literary world, or maybe even the literary world period. (PoeBiz is what Rita Dove taught me to call it.) Most certainly, I made strategic investments of energy and time and resources in promoting the book because I owed it to the art product and to my press for allowing it to become an art product. Beyond that, though (after I weathered not being long-listed for the National Book Award, which hurt me more that I would now be comfortable admitting), I had to do a lot of internal work to divorce the reception of the book--which, as you can see below, has not been disappointing--from my personal value of myself as a writer and my work. (In my reading copy of HONEST ENGINE, I keep a postcard Charles Wright sent me after he read the book. I've gone back to it often throughout the year. To have genuinely made an impression upon my former teachers--Lisa Spaar, Rita Dove and Chuck, those who have invested so many different things in my growth--reaffirms my belief in the journey's worthiness.)
The global community of readers and writers is real. The "literary world" is not. It is a construction of the trade publishing world and the value and aesthetic shaping institutions that assert influence through prizes and fellowships. There is nothing wrong with playing that game, but a game is all it is. It is a field you place your heart upon for it to be whacked around, not the type of field you plant your heart in if you want something to grow over time. I'm thankful for the opportunity to learn that while living with this book this year.
On the 2016 horizon, look for new work from me in POETRY magazine, AMERICAN POETRY REVIEW and PUBLIC POOL (a new venue I am excited about). I am also excited for new books by writing comrades (such as Dana Johnson, Tyehimba Jess, Victor LaValle and Camille Rankine) and writers I just admire (like Ocean Vuong and Larry Levis).
I really don't believe in "best" books. (The judge always matters and the judge, depending on the public he or she is accountable to, is always wrong.) Nevertheless, I am thankful to have been read by these readers this year, and I appreciate their letting the world know that they read me.
Beltway Poetry Quarterly: "Beltway Poetry Best Books of 2015"
Mosaic Magazine: "Best Books of 2015"
Split This Rock: "2015 Poetry Books We Loved"
The Millions: "A Year in Reading" by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Boaat Press: "My Thirteen Favorite New Poetry Books of 2015 (So Far)" by Kaveh Akbar
Medium.com: "Ten Poems I Really Love That Were Published On The Internet In 2015" by Hanif Abdurraqib
The Collagist: "HONEST ENGINE Reviewed by Michael VanCalbergh"
Los Angeles Review of Books: "Rigoberto González on BRIGHT DEAD THINGS and HONEST ENGINE and LOOSE STRIFE"
Washington City Paper: "HONEST ENGINE Reviewed by Tanya Paperny"
The Rumpus: "HONEST ENGINE Reviewed by Lauren Swearingen-Steadwell"
Washington Independent Review of Books: "April 2015 Exemplars: National Poetry Month’s Best Picks"
Colorado State English Department: [Recap] "Creative Writing Reading Series: Kyle Dargan"
Ploughshares Blog: "Reading Kyle Dargan’s HONEST ENGINE During the Baltimore Riots"
Furious Flower: "Comprehensive Humanity: Kyle Dargan on Loss, Learning, and Language"
WAMU 88.5: "Bookend: 'My First English Teacher Was Hip-Hop' "
Voice of America News: "House Parties Build Community Around Creative Arts"
The RightSide with Armstrong Williams
SOME THINGS I WROTE
The Rumpus: "The Saturday Rumpus Essay: Informing Form"
Ebony.com: "Saul Williams Takes on the ‘US (a.)’ [INTERVIEW]"