Friday, June 02, 2023

12 or 20 (second series) questions with danilo machado

Born in Medellín, Colombia, danilo machado (he/they) is a poet, curator, and critic living on occupied land interested in language’s potential for revealing tenderness, erasure, and relationships to power. A 2020-2021 Poetry Project Emerge-Surface-Be Fellow, their writing has been featured in Hyperallergic, Art in America, Poem-A-Day, Art Papers, ArtCritical, The Recluse, GenderFail, No, Dear, Long River Review, TAYO Literary Magazine, among others. They are the author of the collection This is your receipt and is not a ticket for travel (Faint Line Press, 2023) and the chaplets wavy in its heat and to be elsewhere (Ghost City Press Summer Series, 2022/2023).

With Em Marie Kohl, danilo co-hosts the monthly queer reading series exquisites First Thursdays at Art Cafe + Bar in Brooklyn. danilo is also the co-founder/co-curator the chapbook/broadside fundraiser Already Felt: poems in revolt & bounty and author of The Post Post Post newsletter on Substack. danilo curated the exhibitions Otherwise Obscured: Erasure in Body and Text (Franklin Street Works, 2019), support structures (Virtual/8th Floor Gallery, 2020), We turn (EFA Project Space, 2021), and Eligible/Illegible (co-curated with Francisco Donoso, PS122, 2023). An honors graduate of the University of Connecticut, danilo is Producer of Public Programs at the Brooklyn Museum. They are working to show up with care for their communities.

Headshot by Ryan Bourque, 2023.
[Image Description: Headshot of a brown queer person, wearing a red-tan jacket, glasses, and a tied handkerchief. They are standing looking at the camera at a side with a slight smile. Behind them is the arch at Grand Army Plaza and a car passing by. ]

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
This is your receipt and is not a ticket for travel is my first big collection and I’ve learned so much from both the process of publishing it and from the poems themselves. I’ve always been writing transit poems, so this selection feels like part of a throughline. It does feel unique because of the collaborations that made it happen, namely my friend Jason Lipeles and Faint Line Press, Jenna Hamed who contributed photographs, and Rodrigo Moreira who designed the cover.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I attribute my sophomore English teacher, Ms. Ginsburg (now Gordon), for making me a poet. I remember staying after school working with her on drafts.  I did try my hand at some bad novels when I was younger, and I do write art criticism, too—but poetry remains my most core practice.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
The writing can be quick sometimes, but the editing is often slower. I’ve learned that full projects take years to simmer and develop, which was the case with This is your receipt. I think about editing as rock tumbling, and each poem requires its unique number of spins to shine.

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

My poems always begin handwritten in notebooks. They are often, perhaps unsurprisingly, started in transit. Subway rides, train rides, and walks are not just subjects in my work, but spaces where drafting (and sometimes editing) happens. Being in transit is this particular in-between where time both stops and slows; where there is both stillness and overstimulation; embodiment and disembodiment. I’m constantly in awe of the language, bodies, and light one is surrounded by in those spaces. They’ve always inspired writing and observation—sometimes imbued with wonder and other times with critique. The early version of This is your receipt started as a semester-long independent study where the end goal was  a collection, but much of my other work starts with individual pieces which slowly find ways to combine.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I find readings to be a useful (and fun!) part of my poetic practice. Often, they reveal unexpected punchlines in poems and encourage a different kind of attention to them as the author. I learn new things about the poems, particularly through the sonic qualities which are not always immediate on the page. One of the best parts of readings for me is getting to hear other poets share their work and seeing the kind of connections that emerge from a lineup. I also enjoy hosting and organizing readings, which is its own art!

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
For sure. My poetics are interested in capturing queer migrant realities and intimacies, with special attention to navigating the violences of structures of power and countering them with tenderness and close looking. My poems are often asking the same questions (What makes a political poem? What is the relationship between our everyday commutes and our larger experiences of migration and dislocation? How can English and the language of bureaucracies be reclaimed or deflated?) without the aim to answer. The asking is the thing itself, the poem itself.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Do they even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
I believe that writers have a responsibility to their communities, no matter what they may be. I think as important as making “good” work is being a good community member that collaborates, shares generously within one’s capacity, and that invests in supporting both peers and emerging writers. Writing or being a writer is not a substitute for the many other kinds of action required to fulfill the responsibility we all have to each other and our collective liberation.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Editors, but more broadly trusted readers, are essential! Their distance from the text is a useful position, but one that I wouldn't fully characterize as “outside.” The best editors (and friends with whom I share work with) have a level of familiarity with my work and the bigger questions I (and often we) are concerned with. It is important to me for (my) work to not just reflect a singular unique voice but to be grounded in a web of relation.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
This is a tough one! I can’t think of one singular piece of advice but one thing that I find useful is reminding myself that the balance between urgency and patience is key. We must act like the world is on fire (because it is) while embracing the slow, unglamorous, nonlinear work not just of (good) poems, but of good relationships.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to critical prose)? What do you see as the appeal?
For me, moving between (and beyond) genres feels natural. Poetry is often at the center even when I’m writing prose, and blurring genres feels not just freeing but accurate to how I experience the world.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I don’t have a routine per se, but I am often writing in transit and late at night. I try to do morning pages when I can. Typical mornings begin with feeding and walking the dog, and always with coffee.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
When I’m stuck, reading other poets helps—that or a walk. I really believe that a chunk of the process necessary for writing doesn’t involve writing at all, but that requires you taking in the environments, language, and people that surround you.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Coffee brewing.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
I’m very much influenced by visual art and artists, both in my poetry and in my other practices of curating exhibitions and public programming. I’ve written several ekphrastic poems—there’s one in the book called “small / paintings” inspired by the work of Brian Kauppi I first saw at Head Hi in Brooklyn—and a few poems in conjunction with exhibitions as well. Jesse Chun and Levani are two contemporary artists I’ve been lucky to be in conversation and friendship for a few years. I’m so inspired and informed by their work and have loved dreaming up exhibitions and publications together.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Marwa Helal has had perhaps the most profound influence on my work and on my life as a writer. There are so many writers who are important to me, some of which I feel lucky to consider friends, mentors, and peers. Ariel Goldberg, Jan-Henry Gray, and Stacy Szymaszek are just a few that were key to This is your receipt.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I’d like to write a book-length poem, like those of Ted Rees and Tommy Pico.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
I don’t think I could pick or have ended up doing anything that wasn’t related to writing, visual art, and poetry!

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I think a need to record and to make sense of the world around me made me write.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I loved Caelan Ernest’s night mode (Everybody Press, 2023), which I got to read an early copy of in very fitting digital form. It’s glitchy and winky and queer in all the best ways. I famously don’t watch that many movies, but I finally saw Everything Everywhere All At Once and it was such a profound, absurd delight.

20 - What are you currently working on?
I’ll be part of the Ghost City Press Summer Series again with a new chaplet called to be elsewhere. I’m also working on a performance at National Sawdust with composer Chase Elodia and some amazing New York poets called Walking In the City. My friend Em Marie Kohl and I co-host a monthly queer reading series called exquisites at Art Cafe + Bar,  and we’ll be launching the first of our chapbook series this summer  as well.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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