Brian Gilmore (’14, ’15) On Balancing the Writing Life

Brian Gilmore (’14, ’15) On Balancing the Writing Life



I am a poet and public interest advocate (lawyer, and now clinical professor of law).

Everyday, I work with words, on the page, and as poets like to say – the stage, in order to impart some truth about the lives we lead and the lives that cross my path each day. I try to make it all art: the law, and the literature, the words.

My pages are articles, reviews, poems, and stories I have been lucky enough to publish in a lot of different places. Then there are also the legal papers I have filed for my clients, most of whom could not afford a lawyer. Mostly though, I write letters. It is what I enjoy writing more than anything: letters.

My stages are numerous as well: poetry venues, writer’s conferences, radio programs, a film, and, of course, courts of law, tribunals, public forums.

I have considered quitting the law. I have also thought that poetry (literature) is useless. It is (and has been), at times, emotionally exhausting to encounter individuals having a difficult time in the legal system and also to write about the troubles of the world in my poetry and in my writings. Yet, I cannot quit. It is what I am, and what I have always been even before I became what I am today.

Read the rest of the article here: THE BEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING

This Ends Now: Fiction in Time of Crisis by Brian Gilmore (’14, 15)

This Ends Now: Fiction in Time of Crisis by Brian Gilmore (’14, 15)

Brian Gilmore (’14, ’15) made the following presentation at AWP 2016 in Los Angeles as part of a panel entitled This Ends Now.  

As a poet, and writer in many other genres, politics has never been too far from my writing. By the time I took writing serious and decided to be a writer, the movement for the end to apartheid in South Africa was in full swing and myself and many other students and activists rarely missed an opportunity to join a protest. Those of us who were poets wrote about it all the time and it often consumed our literature and created a personal challenge to write good poetry that we respected but that also spoke to the moment. Ronald Reagan was also President, and he too, became easy inspiration for our political verse considering policies he advocated that denigrated the poor and people of color.

It has never been an issue for me to mix art and politics, and especially, the serious issues as they appear in society. As a black writer, it is impossible to ignore the politics of my time and many writers, Sonia Sanchez, Richard Wright, Haki Madhubuti, John A Williams, and others, provided examples of writers who wrote in a time of crisis, on a variety of issues.

Read the rest of the remarks here:  This Ends Now!

Craft, White Gaze and Black Gaze by Andy Johnson (’14, ’16)

Craft, White Gaze and Black Gaze by Andy Johnson (’14, ’16)

At AWP 2016, Andy Johnson delivered the following remarks as part of a Kimbilio panel on black writers in the white world.  As a result of this presentation, Andy was offered a book contract!

In 2014, I spoke on a panel called “Crossing (Imagined) Borders: Research, Writing, and the Challenges of the 21st Century,” at the Writing Research Across Borders annual conference in Paris. My paper concerned the ways I’d heard and seen English used while I taught in Liberia – everything from conversations with palm-wine tappers and motorcycle taxi drivers, government radio, rusty signs painted by over-ambitious NGOs (like mine), or corrupt NGOs (also like mine) the soft coding of bribes, folktales, drums, aphorisms, and dances. I’d planned on describing how English has undergone a de-creolization process – after the civil war, the colonized had less affection for the language of the colonizers, and began using indigenous languages as much, if not more than English, resulting in the dissolution of a national Liberian English into 16 separate sub-regional English-es. All of this sounded good and academic and enough to get my university to pay for a trip to Paris.

The day before my presentation, a colleague and I passed a statue near the Latin Quarter. Someone had tagged the bronze with fluorescent green spray paint. My colleague asked why would anyone deface public art? I replied that the answer was right in front of us: the tagger needed to be seen. My colleague said there are ways to be seen and ways to be heard but vandalism wasn’t one of them. I replied that when you’re invisible, even being a criminal means you’re a human being with rights, with laws that apply to you and your body. But when you’re invisible – I said – they can do anything to you.

Of course, I was thinking of Sarah Baartman, a.k.a. the Hottentot Venus. In America, I teach my students about her as an intersection of race, gender, narrative, and invisibility. They react the way most of us reacted when we heard her story: shock, horror, anger, and not a few saying “and this shit still happens today…”

Read the rest of Andy’s article here:  Craft, White Gaze and Black Gaze

Khaliah Williams in Buzzfeed

Khaliah Williams in Buzzfeed

Recently Kimbilio Fellow Khaliah Williams helped lead a Write-In for Youth in Baltimore.  She writes about it here in Buzzfeed:

I’m not from Baltimore. The five years I’ve lived here are a long time to me, but they’re a blip in the grand scheme of things. The kind of Baltimore story that has been at the center of national and international news isn’t my story to tell.

But as a high school teacher, I’m worried about what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie would call “the single story” of Baltimore’s teenagers in the media this month — calling for a “purge,” throwing rocks at cops, and destroying property. As Adichie explained in a 2009 TED Talk, any monolithic narrative is liable to create stereotypes, “and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.” Maybe some of Baltimore’s protesters were opportunistic hooligans, as news reports suggest. But stereotypes, Adichie said, “make one story become the only story.” And the ones I know tell a very different story.

I was sitting at my kitchen table last Monday, listening to the sounds of sirens and police helicopters making their way to the nearby Mondawmin Mall, where protesters had gathered in the name of Freddie Gray. What had started out as a peaceful gathering soon turned violent. I wasn’t surprised. It was the unfortunate but natural progression of things, the consequence of the systematic degradation of a people, of their neighborhoods.

Read the rest of her article here:

PICTURED ABOVE: Khaliah (in the background) listening to the young writers.  Photo credit: Nancy Nichols Jagelka/Fusion Partnerhips, Inc.

I Tituba: Dianca London Potts on Historical Re-enacting

I Tituba: Dianca London Potts on Historical Re-enacting

I was Tituba. Or at least, everyone thought I was. During my freshman year at a small liberal arts Christian college in Wenham, Massachusetts, my lifelong fascination with the Salem Witch Trials and an empty bank account prompted me to apply for a job as a historical reenactor. For nine dolllars an hour, I dressed in heavy cloaks, long skirts, and leather boots with golden buckles. I revived the past as a member of the street cast for Cry Innocent, a dramatized play recounting the trail of Bridget Bishop, the first citizen of Salem to be executed as a witch. Somewhere between the excitement of make-believe and a steady paycheck, I forgot the historical implications of something I couldn’t change: the color of my skin.

As part of the required training, my fellow street cast members and I toured the cobbled streets of Salem guided by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s wife, Sophia Peabody Hawthorne. We stood in the shadow of the Custom House and filed past the House of Seven Gables as she told us of her husband’s inspiration for The Scarlet Letter. She showed us the graves of his forefathers, briefly mentioning his family’s involvement in the witch trials and Hawthorne’s resulting guilt. We traveled to the nearby Plymouth Plantation, a “living museum” depicting the daily grind of 17th-century colonists. Women in bonnets, with names like “Prudence” and “Constance,” demonstrated how to spin wool and make candles. Then we returned to downtown Salem for a costume fitting and dinner.