The Queerer and More Arch Parts of Myself: An Interview with Featured Author Kenan Ince

Kenan Ince’s poems, “Trickle-Down Theory,” “Let’s Trim Our Hair in Accordance with the Socialist Lifestyle” and “Slaine” are featured in this year’s summer issue. We asked him a few brief questions on craft. Here are his answers.

Q: Do you have any super secret rituals that help your writing process?

A: One of my favorite rituals involves lighting some cleansing incense around my computer, pouring myself a healthy glass of bourbon (neat), and putting on some Bitches Brew­-era Miles Davis or Flying Lotus. Then I open up the OneNote folder called “Inspiration” where I keep poems or fragments that I found online, as well as overheard phrases or thoughts that intrigued me, and start freewriting off of something in the folder. This usually seems to work pretty well.

Q: What parts of your writing have you put the most focus on?

A: Lately I’ve been trying to let my own eccentricities and humor into the writing more. My ritual really helps me open up some of the queer­er and more arch parts of myself, and that tends to blend with the serious political focus that so much of my old writing had.

Q: What is the thing you tell yourself most when you are revising your poems? Do you have advice for other poets in this regard?

Q: The thing I tell myself most recently is “don’t average out your poem.” I used to try and fit every suggested revision I received into the latest version of my poems, but this sometimes tends to make my work inoffensive to everyone but deeply inspiring to no one. Instead, I try to bring some freewriting into the process. I hear the Beatles used to not write anything down when they were jamming because they figured if it was really good then they’d remember it the next day. I try to rewrite pieces from memory without looking at the first draft during the revision process, figuring that if something’s good, I’ll remember it.

Q: What’s your favorite sentence from a piece of writing?

Tough one, and not a question I think I can answer, but as for my current favorite line, I’d have to go with either

Whenever in this city, screens flicker
with pornography, with science­fiction vampires,
victimized hirelings bending to the lash,
we also have to walk…if simply as we walk
through the rainsoaked garbage, the tabloid cruelties
of our own neighborhoods.
-from Adrienne Rich, “Twenty­One Love Poems”

or

This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless­about to be birthed, but already felt.
-from Audre Lorde, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury”

Q: A lot of people talk about MFA factories churning out carbon copy writers. What are your thoughts on authenticity and integrity in writing in such a competitive field?

I personally don’t currently have the time or money to get an MFA, since I’m almost done with a math Ph.D., but I think the MFA can be a wonderful way to dedicate lots of time to writing. As I mentioned above, I think if one listens to everyone’s critique and tries to apply it all to their work, the result might not be too “authentic.” “Integrity” as a poet, to me, is about opposing, not perpetuating harmful structures of oppression such as racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., with one’s poetry (even if trying to oppose them, a la Vanessa Place).

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Kenan Ince is a mathematics PhD student from Dallas currently living in Houston. His work has been published in Word Riot, HEArt Online, and The Hartskill Review, among others. He has been a featured poet in Houston’s Public Poetry and First Friday reading series.

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