Akua Lezli Hope is a creator who uses sound, words, fiber, glass, and metal, to create poems, patterns, stories, music, ornaments, adornments and peace whenever possible. A third generation New Yorker, she has won fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Ragdale, Hurston Wright writers, and the National Endowment for The Arts. She is a Cave Canem fellow. Her manuscript, Them Gone, won Red Paint Hill Publishing’s Editor’s Prize and will be published in 2016. Her poem “Sisko” appears in Issue Six of The Cossack Review.
TCR: Your poem “Sisko” is a paean to Avery Brooks, the actor who played Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Sisko changes a great deal–as a captain and as a person–by the end of the series. Describe your experience writing a poem about such a nuanced character.
Akua Lezli Hope: Challenging, as I wanted to do many things at once — describe the character’s journey, the character’s multiplicity of roles, the weight of griefs, the dreck of war, that he must endure. The fictional universe makes him a spiritual leader, warrior, lover, father, cook, politician, manager, ambassador and savior, et not superman. Outside the screen’s world, there is the work of the depiction, the role the actor had to play as leader, pace setter for the crew/troupe, a father, husband, musician, far away from home on the other side of the continent, breathing life into words on a page and making history, influencing generations who would see an African American lead, mediate, teach and evolve. How close do I stand, how much can one presume to know, knowing nothing of the person, only of the great gift received, the secret transmissions, the codes signalled in the flash of taut sneer smile, the raised eyebrow, the use of voice like a velvet whip. The years of the appointment made and kept, to be told a story of an improbable future made compelling by the soul force of an actor, to watch.
TCR: Why did you start writing poetry?
ALH: As the firstborn of the third generation of my families in America, I inherited the desire to make my spirit manifest, to create, to share what comes through me.
TCR: What are you reading now?
ALH: My pile includes Voyage of the Sable Venus, Poetry February 2016, The Selected Writings of Juan Ramon Jimenez, Digest, A New Look at Crochet, Rattle Spring 2016, Monozygotic/CoDependent, That Little Something, Unaccustomed Earth, The Forest, Blue Fasa, Unattainable Earth and The Book For My Brother, but there are more that have drifted under the bed.
TCR: What are your favorite strategies for revising your work?
ALH: Say it aloud, record it, play it back to myself; put it away and return to it after some time has passed; make the last line or stanza first and vice versa; check that I’ve used all the physical senses.
TCR: What is your next project?
ALH: My chapbooks, Being Here, Health Care and Crochet, are journeying out, seeking publication. My collection, THEM GONE, won Red Paint Hill’s editor’s prize. It was also a Word Works finalist. I’ve been meditating on it in preparation for its publication.