Highlighted by Porter Square Books
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Meet Our June Massachusetts Poet in the Spotlight: Krysten Hill

Highlighted by Porter Square Books

Krysten Hill is an educator, writer, and performer who has showcased her poetry on stage at The Massachusetts Poetry Festival, Blacksmith House, Cantab Lounge, Merrimack College, U35 Reading Series, and many others. She received her MFA in poetry from UMass Boston where she currently teaches. Her work can be found inapt, Word Riot, The Baltimore Review, B O D Y, Muzzle, PANK, Winter Tangerine Review and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2016 St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award. Her chapbook, How Her Spirit Got Out, is now available through Aforementioned Productions.
Poetic Profession   

"Weeks ago, I developed a strong craving for sweet potatoes. Nothing else would do. While peeling the sweet potatoes at my kitchen table, the rhythm and repetition of peeling took me somewhere else. I was transported to my aunt’s yellow kitchen again. We were sitting there together, and she had a cigarette in her mouth. She was teaching me how to slide the peeling knife to remove the skin without grazing the skin on my fingers. I like that writing can start from a craving that I don't understand at first, and I like to follow that feeling until I'm brought to another place. Some poems start for me from questions and confusion, and I find myself not really writing towards any specific answer. I'm just looking to uncover a moment however it comes through. Writing has taught me to be a generous listener to the feelings within myself and the world around me. Audre Lorde states in her essay “Poetry is Not a Luxury,” that women contain “an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling. The woman's place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep.” I've learned that poems can cultivate places of power in their witnessing, and I've learned to respect the journey of the process especially when I am afraid of where my mind is going."

 
Nina Simone at Olympia

I left a country that blew up churches 
with children in them. A country that unleashed 
dogs on crowds of my skin, the handlers raising 
their sticks for the sick split of black bodies. 

    Alabama's gotten me so upset
    Tennessee made me lose my rest


It took seconds to silence Malcolm,
tear the feathers from his words 
with bullets singing through him 
King’s bright color spread heavy 
on a Memphis balcony. 
It takes the right kind of monsters to merge
into the nightmare of American 
history. I learned to become a vicious thing 
that knows where to find the throat.

    And everybody knows about 
        Mississippi Goddam


But when I left my country,
I left it for other kinds of cages.
This business follows you, packages you 
where they want you, aims lights 
into your eyes, taps the side 
of your instrument to make you sing.
I can’t stand my own noise sometimes. 
Some kind of clatter gets caught 
in their clamoring 
requests. Their encores 
are killing me. 
    
You think you know me 
because when you take me home 
your needle drops on the story of lovers
that leave me for quieter things, 
but when I stare through your crowds, 
your curled smoke, shut off the electricity 
of my hands just to see you squirm 
I mean to make you earn my sound. 

Listen.

To trigger a piano it starts with a depressed key
that rocks a center rail. The mechanical rise 
and fall against each other. Hammers 
know where to strike tight strings, vibrations 
spill through soundboard,  
seizures of hallelujah. 
Momentum brings hollering beg 
beginning with the right touch
laid on miracle machine.

When that sound responds
it’s a separate, free woman inside me
that doesn’t want to be touched.
I plead with her when I am on my knees 
inside a song to disembody me. 
Help perform this grief out. 

She is what hides in the folds of larynx
curves of diaphragm, the hold of lungs. 

    The name of this tune 

is released, reaching 
for moonbit notes, indigo running
down rhythm touched heel
beating a language into floorboards.

    The name of this tune 

is the sound hanging on 
until the key releases, and damper drops,
silencing the string.
        
    The name of this tune 

is the unshackling 
that happens in seconds.

    And I mean every word of it.

Porter Square Books is a fiercely independent bookstore serving the greater Cambridge community by nurturing a rich reading life and fostering a conversation between the world of books, authors, and our community through events, recommendations, and an interesting and engaging selection of books for all ages. http://www.portersquarebooks.com/

Massachusetts Poet in the Spotlight is a monthly installment from Mass Poetry. Each month we shine the spotlight on a poet affiliated with, and nominated by, one of our poetry partners.

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