Medicine Woman: A Late Afternoon with Kim g.
By Karrie Myers
 


Kg: Sorry I'm late.

KM: Mmm-hmmm.

Kg: I saw (John Singleton's) Baby Boy the other day.

KM: Yeah? What'd you think of it?

Kg: Interestun'. Lots of sex.

KM: Yeah, but was it a good movie?

She gives me a blank stare. Shrugs.

Kg: Lots of sex.

Late or not, I have to smile.

The thing about Kim g. is, you will never grow tired of seeing that calm demeanor and graceful grin walk through a door late, long woolen locs swaying after her like baby girl ribbons. She always carries a backpack flung over her shoulder, yet carries herself like a satin purse should be there instead. You will never grow old of seeing her, because whatever happens in the next few minutes, you will come away having learned more about life, more about your priorities and-most importantly-more about yourself.

Kim g. on How Life Is
(6:00 pm: Veselka on 9th and Second Avenue, New York, NY)

KM: Hit me with a 'lil Macy. What is Kim g's philosophy on life?

We are sitting at an outdoor café, waiting for our cheap meal of toast, tea and cranberry juice. The waitress is so sorry to know us.

Kg: My philosophy on life…it's okay if things take time. I've been especially conditioned-I guess 'cause I'm the MTV generation--[to think] that everything is going to be really fast, and it won't take more than a couple of months. But, everything takes time. You're not missing out and you're not being left behind.

(the waitress drops off our food and quickly heads for another table). I should have asked for sugar.

Kim g… the poet
We selected Kim g. as our DW Featured Artist, because she is a poet who manages to capture the experience of the black woman in a way very few artists have. Kim g. has been an Amherst College graduate, a sexual abuse survivor, an accomplished writer and a transient…all before her 27th birthday. But, unlike many black female poets who write about the strife they've endured and the revolutions they've led, Kim g. focuses on the mental healing black women still have to complete. In this age of only subtle rebellions, one has reached a point where there is nothing left to do but stop, reevaluate, and identify themselves apart from being "the mules of the world". Reading Kim's work reminds us that, before black women were hips and thighs, before we were brown limbs and lies…we were little girls.

KM: Why write poetry, as opposed to novels or screenplays?

Kg: I have no idea. I don't have the patience. My first poem in high-school was about how I hate poetry, and how I don't understand how people write poetry. I started out trying to be a short story writer. But with short stories, you need plot and character and "the driving root behind such and such", and I didn't have all that. After about ten pages I was like, I don't know. I have limited life experience. It just seemed easier that I captured thoughts in a page or two. Like a punch of information.

KM: Do you have any favorite poets?

Kg: One of my favorite poets is Ai.

KM: A - I? Japanese poet?

Kg: She's everything. She's Black, she's Japanese, she's White. She looks Black and she writes primarily from the "black experience", as they call it. Audre Lorde. [And] Lucille Clifton…really simple and powerful. It's the kind of poetry I like…the kind of poetry I think I'm writing.

i am walking down the street, down onto the train
with heavy coat, heavy bags
          and giddy hunger
my head explodes completely
and flys left and right like a
          sneeze gone terribly wrong

- from I Am Walking Down the Street

Sometimes, if you're in a part of my poetry that doesn't make sense, it could be A) I'm really stuck in my head, or B) I want it to be. At that point in the poem, you're supposed to be confused. If you read something non-sensible, that's usually what it is.

Suddenly, from the corner of my eye, a homeless man stops in front of the café table behind us. He begins to berate the other customers, who refuse to give him money.

Soon, the man ambles away.

Kg: Yeah, that's very New York. That's kind of what I'm learning through my [sexual abuse] recovery; how to ask for what you need. I always feel like I'm really close to being homeless. I was homeless last year, but I stayed with a lot of friends. I really got a sense of what it's like to be without a home. People who have had homes consistently take that for granted. I've had only nuts for days, or bagels. Five dollar a day meals…which I may have to do this week!

KM: I've definitely been there.

Kg: (laughing) It's a discipline. It's a training.

KM: Speaking of training, do you have a writing process?

Kg: I was blessed to go to some really good schools, and I got a lot of writing training there. I always read aloud. I always do long hand first, on napkins or scraps of magazines. The key is to learn how to read aloud. It can save anyone's ass and make your poem halfway decent. I always correct it to the way I read it, not the way I write it. I write it the way humans would speak it.

I write what I know. What I know is sometimes abstract, usually very painful, always complex and filled with irony. I don't write about love.

KM: No Nikki Givovanni Kidnap Poem?

Kg: Right. [None of those] black poems like, Mah' Boo, or whatever they're called.

KM: So--if love has nothing to do with it--who or what inspires you to write the way you do?

Kg: My life and my circumstances.

KM: So, you inspire you?

Kg: The poet Reggie Gaines came up to Amherst [College] once and he said, "have you ever heard someone write about a good shave?" I thought that was pretty funny. It's so true. A lot of my writing is about pain. I absorb a lot. I've seen stuff in New York City that's just been ripe with shit.

KM: What are you writing right now?

Kg: I did another page or two of Medicine Bar, which is a short story, and I'm transcribing some poetry I wrote when I was in transit and didn't have a computer. I'm moving at my own pace.

KM: Tell me more about Medicine Bar.

Kg: It's a first hand experience of me learning I was an incest survivor through very un-interactions with my parents.

KM: What do you mean by "un-interactions"?

Kg: Un-interactions are interactions that leave a bad taste in my mouth, or in my memory. My intention in the beginning of Medicine Bar, was to write a biography of my parents. I realized I didn't know much about them. All the conversations and fodder [in Medicine Bar] are true; I just changed the names and the circumstances ever so slightly. I realized a lot of it is irony or cynicism; cynicism is often a mask for rage that cannot be articulated properly. Part of me can't really say what it's about. I feel like the story is not finished.

KM: It's an ongoing piece?

Kg: Definitely.

KM: Medicine Bar is my favorite one of your pieces that we have available on the website. Aside from Medicine Bar-my favorite is I Am Walking Down the Street.

Kg: I have about four or five other poems that start with I am walking down the street. Something bad always happens in them. They're also really gruesome. I'm not robbed. Never mugged. I don't even trip. But, my eye will pop out. It's like, I may look okay, but I'm falling apart.

I have this one poem where my eye pops out. I pick it up and lick it like a good mother cat, and I put it back in my head. Things fall apart all the time for me. This is just breakfast. Wait 'til I get to lunch!

KM: You have this pattern in your work where the last image is cruel and abrupt, without any conclusion. Is that intentional?

Kg: A lot of it is capturing a moment…like a fist going through a wall…and then it's over. It's like the last paragraph on the forty-seventh page of a book. You [read it] and you're just like, whew! That's it! That's all I needed.

Kim g. on cob webs
I am trying to write my leg of the story while I'm still on the journey. It could become the family tree - with the branches being ones I identified and created - when I'm done. Currently, this is a shaping. This is not a river that flows…this is something very different than that. A river doesn't tell its own story because it's assumed it represents things that defy words, that are too soulful to be expressed, too deep, and too hot.

-From Medicine Bar

KM: I was thinking about how important an artist you are. One of the reasons we wanted you to do this-besides the fact that you're a phenomenal writer-is because you can help a lot of people heal themselves. Having you as someone to look up to--as a writer who has experienced abuse in their life and is willing to explore these cob webs publicly--is a gift. I think most artists-especially artists of color--have survived extensive abuse, but this information is never given as a pre-cursor to their art. The headline was always, "Basquiat Is an Urban Genius." It was never, "Basquiat Was Raised By a Mentally Ill Parent and Therefore, Might Be Using His Art to Work Out Some Issues."

That said: Do you think that your work is a product of your abuse? Do you ever think that if you had not been abused, you would not be a poet?

Kg: It's possible. My senior year in college-right after my last Latin exam--I ran into another friend who was a writer. Right on the corner quad where Merrill and Sterns meet. We were talking and I said, "You know, I'd like to be a writer. But I don't have anything to write about." It was true at the time. I believed if you had nothing to say, don't write.

There's this theory that-before you come to earth-you pick the circumstances you'll come into. I believe I picked my profession first. I believe me wanting to be a writer came before everything else, even before my incest. I truly realize that if I hadn't been incested, I really wouldn't have anything to write about.

Kim g. is dead

what is it that holds you up
and keeps you straight
when you cross
the street in the day?
is it large cartridge size
styrofoam peanuts strewn
together to make a flowery
necklace to keep you floating
if you fall through a hole i
know you did not see?
bringing you up like a beachball
pulled down in silky water,
bringing you safely across the
street without you having to look at
anything at all
at me

-From Injustice

 

KM: So, picture this: someone opens a newspaper and comes across your obituary. What few sentences could explain who you were?

Kg: Ahhh, let's see. She was always true to herself. She was always honest. She worked damn hard.

Kim looks left, right, indirectly and finally…at me.

Kg: And I guess that's all.


 

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