Q&A with TOASTER
What are five musical artists readers should listen to while reading your work, and why?
Albums I listened to while writing/audience should listen to while reading:
“For All The World To See” by Death
I picked this album because their story is fascinating to me. They, like so many other black artists were, were denied everything they deserved from the music industry. Because they were black, and because they were different, they were refused, only to become everything we love about music these days.
Also this album fucking slaps.
“Space Is The Place” by Sun Ra
Actually I’d prefer you watch the movie because it says so much about what it is to be a weirdo in your community trying to show people the greatness you created for them. You want to show your universe to people but sometimes they’d prefer to keep what works against them.
“Sound Ancestors” by Madlib
Honestly I just want to be associated with Madlib and there isn’t anything i’ve written without his music playing in the background. The man’s a genius.
“Shut The Fuck Up When You’re Talking To Me” Zack Fox
Zack Fox does a really good job of doing absolutely whatever the fuck he wants with his work and that’s super pro black to me. He makes what he wants for himself and I think that’s the energy I want you to experience with my book.
“Few Good Things” Saba
Probably my favorite album this year and honestly I just want you to hear it. It has everything, it does everything and it leaves you wanting more. Best part is you can tell every bar is true to him in a way thats super vulnerable. Not in the way that is necessarily exploitative- just an open door.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Fucking go for it! You’ll find your audience just put something out that makes you happy and go from there. I think something that was really challenging about this book was that I had so many old poems that don’t fit who I am now- it felt like starting over. The longer you go without putting out projects, the less you have to show for all your hard work. Imagine what you want from yourself and throw yourself at the process.
What are your opinions on the accessibility of meaning? Do you think the reader benefits when they “solve” the poem?
I don’t believe a poem needs to be understood to be good. Most of my favorite poems are poems written without me in mind. I think it is important to keep your audience in mind when you’re writing, but I don’t think it’s important for people outside of your audience to “get it.” Some of my favorite poems are poems i’ve misunderstood over and over and over again. What makes a poem beautiful is often how it’s misunderstood.
I wrote “WANNA BE” for young black artists excited to succeed in an industry created to exploit them. My goal was to write a gem for someone looking to create something awesome without giving up their soul for it. So If someone outside of that demographic has trouble understanding the book, I’m ok with that. They can spend the time trying to figure it out, or they can leave it alone.
What is the most challenging aspect of launching a book?
There’s a point where you have to explain what your book is “about” and that sucked for me. My brain is super neurodivergent, so having to explain what what’s going on in my head is always difficult. However, when my editor, Kush, spoke with me about it, the poems took on entirely new meanings. It became a lot more fun and kept me invested in the work.
Can you discuss how you went about writing this book and what you discovered?
I wrote “WANNA BE” trying to come to terms with the exploitative nature of the entertainment industry. In the beginning I wanted to name it “Show” or “Zoo” but that didn’t really capture the aspects of the industry I signed up for. I do want to create and I do want to share, I just don’t want it to become something that defines me- only I can do that. Somewhere along the line my dad asked me why I wasn’t writing for myself and that changed everything. Why wouldn’t I make something that makes me happy? What else could I possibly need?