Interview: m “mick” powell
Interview: m “mick” powell
mick powell (she/her) is a queer black Cape Verdean femme feminist poet, whose chapbook “chronicle the body” was chosen by Aaron Coleman for the 2018 Yemassee chapbook contest. We got the chance to email with mick about her writing, which we’re excited to share with you below.
How did you conceptualize this work? Many chapbooks don’t have sections. However, your table of contents indicates four sections that are not shown in the body of the collection.
when i started building the chapbook, i was thinking about what it means to “chronicle” or chronologize something that expands across generations and doesn’t conform to a hard-set historical model. and so the sections, i think, help to frame that sort of unconventional timeline and help to delineate those recurring moments of consciousness/wakefulness/physicality (the first & last sections) and un/subconsciousness/sentience (the second & third sections).
Tell us how you approached generational trauma in the collection.
i tried to approach my understandings and experiences of trauma fearlessly and selflessly. i always turn back to June Jordan and Audre Lorde’s values of speaking truth as a political and liberating act. so my approach was to tell a truth in the narrative poems, despite the violence it showed or conjured. and i think the static between the more narrative poems–the ghostly, the dream-like, the unreal/surreal poems–are my processing poems; like, what worlds do we enter to heal? what do those worlds look like? what solace do they offer?
How is the mouth working in this collection? Is it an expression of language or a need for conversation?
yes, i feel like my hyper-focus on the mouth has to do with language and conversations. it’s also about the conceptualization of the mouth as a central site for delight and violence. we can use our mouths to taste, to kiss, to give pleasure, to sing. but our mouths can also be violated–through silencing, through forced entry. and ours mouth can do verbal violence. i think these layers are always present when i reference the mouth, the teeth, the tongue, the lips.
How do you envision color being used to describe the body and experiences of the body, specifically in reference to the recurrent use of blue and purple throughout the collection?
there’s something ghostly and beautiful about blues and purples to me. i think my ultimate goal was to tinge the entire collection with a dusky bluish violet glow.
How can we use music and sound as lenses to understand the experiences of the body in your collection? There are multiple instances of music and we wondered about how they were working to express the experiences of the speaker. For instance, the “candy girls” poems referring back to New Edition (…as well as Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons).
i really struggle with my own memory but one of the things that grounds my memories is sound and song so i think that’s threaded throughout, like the omnipresence of sound for me as an individual who is recording these stories. with the candy girls series in particular, i was thinking of so many popular songs that equate women and femmes or experiences with women and femmes with candy–like “Candy” by Cameo and Aaron Carter’s “I Want Candy,” and of course New Edition’s “Candy Girl”–and the symbolism behind that. this sort of “irresistible sweetness,” which links back to the mouth, and connects with each character’s experience with sexual violence and victim blaming.
What archives did you use to write candy girl (1961)?
the poem is a compilation of several true stories of sexual and racialized violence occurring in the 60s. these stories have been shared by family and community members in intergenerational spaces for survivors. in particular, i remember my grandmother always talking about “luck,” which the poem circles back to at the end–how lucky we are sometimes to just survive the violence we endure.
How do you pull the string of continuity through this collection?
the intergenerational component of the chapbook is where i think i find the continuity. i feel like the continual return to the grandmother/mother/daughter relationships and interactions runs throughout, like an echo or a ghost. like, in “the summer my body wasn’t a burning thing”–the voice of the mother haunts the speaker and i think that sentiment, at the least, is a huge part of the entire collection.
How can your work be a tool of healing, for instance, the use of water?
the trajectory of the chapbook is to arrive at healing–the final section is thinking about the ways in which we can heal ourselves–through healthy sexual or other bodily experiences, through forgiveness, through naming and reclaiming. so my hope is that the work allows folks who experience it to feel like they can engage in their own truth-telling, their own freedom-finding, whatever that sounds and looks like.
Anything else that you want to add about this collection or your work?
i just feel truly blessed and divinely favored to share this work, this piece of myself, this tender heartache and tiny homecoming. i’m just so thankful to y’all at Yemassee and Aaron Coleman for the award and opportunity! thank you so much!
mick powell (she/her) is a queer black Cape Verdean femme feminist poetry. She is currently an MFA candidate in Poetry at Southern Connecticut State University. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Apogee Journal, Winter Tangerine, The Feminist Wire, and elsewhere. She is a notorious movie-talker who also enjoys talking about Beyoncé, baked goods, bodies, and how much she loves the people she loves.