Tyehimba Jess interviewed in Lightbox

Olio is such a structurally and formally ambitious collection.  Can you describe how the formal experimentation in the book advanced or complicated your exploration of your subjects?

There are several contrapuntal poems in the book that explore dualities of perspective.  Writing in this fashion, using the sonnet, ghazal and Terrance Hayes’ “Golden Shovel” form provided a way for historical voices to talk back to each other using the same amount of breath.   This forced me to consider opposing and complimentary points of view in ways that I could not anticipate until I had written each complimentary line.  For instance, I would have a vague idea of the ideas a syncopated sonnet might want to tackle, but because each line was written in response to a preceding line and had to follow certain strictures of rhyme and syllable count those ideas would change in diction and tenor from the way I would write a straight sonnet.  It is a little like writing with a target that shapeshifts and moves from line to line to line.   It’s my hope that this technique allowed me to offer the reader a more nuanced understanding of all the historical subjects.

Read the Interview here:  Tyehimba in Lightbox Poetry


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