National Poetry Month Celebration
Bio: As a child, Nikia Chaney read. She read everything she could get her hands on. Her earliest memories involve begging her mother to teach her, then 3 years old, to read. As she grew this hunger to read grew with her and childhood was spent in long hours reading in the library after school and longer hours reading by the bathroom light late at night. Her favorite subjects then and now were science fiction because in those stories of possibilities and speculative futures she could be anything she wanted. Yet even as she strove to hide away with a book, something about the stage called her and she placed third in the Los Angeles City wide elementary speech contest.
Nikia Chaney holds two MFAs, one from Antioch University, Los Angeles (2009), and one from California State University, San Bernardino. She was chosen to read for the Literary Uprising for Antioch University. Recently, she competed in the CSU Oral Research Competition for 2012 for her linguistic research, and she was nominated by the English Department for Outstanding Graduate Student at California State University, San Bernardino.
Nikia is an English instructor at San Bernardino Valley Community. She teaches poetry, literacy, and art classes for children and adults for the her local community. She is a founding editor of shufpoetry, an online literary magazine for experimental poetry, and an associate poetry editor for Inlandia: A Literary Journey.
Nikia's poetry has been chosen by Nikki Giovanni as the winner of the 2012 OSA Enizagam Poetry Award. Of her poem "the fish", Ms. Giovanni writes, "...What power this poem has with showing the difficulty of growing up with a terrible secret. What a powerful song this friend sings for a friend drowning in if not evil, then certainly, difficulty.” Nikia's poetry has been published in Portland Review, Saranac Review, 491, Pearl, Sugar House Review, and Badlands among others. She also has two chapbooks Sis Fuss (Orange Monkey Publishing), and ladies, please (Dancing Girl Press) that will be published in 2013. She lives with her children and husband in Rialto, CA.
be it a center for control
or a needle
Shelly makes a doll
and we all line up
to the disease
infatuation with our Haitian greys
black eyes naming us creature
heads swollen like
rags of simularity
and dried blood
each stump a heartbeat
insisting of a night visit
the possibilities of Halperin’s
do sing Carpenter
of a seminal
as a stretched
a figure dragging
delicate body slow
for Lovecraft was right
published in Blackberry Magazine, 2013
Where do you draw your inspiration from to write poetry?
Everything around me. My children's voices, the songs I hear, the sounds and sights. It's funny because in my head I'm always writing something, it gets hard to turn off, I'm always thinking of a new way to change the sentence or the way that lady at the grocery store said "five, ninety five," or how if you listen real close the sound of book closing sounds like the word "sit." Both a blessing and a curse.
What advice do you have for someone that is threatened by poetry?
If poetry seems frightening then I suggest approaching it from other angles. Poetry (in my humble opinion) can be music or art or even dance. Most people who are scared usually have a limited view of poetry. They imagine antiquated tomes and indecipherable lines that scream nah nah nah I'm smarter than you are. But an open mind with a sense of the fun is always the best way to approach poetry.
What is an interesting fact about you?
Even though I need glasses, I wear contacts, I can see very well in the dark. Often I'm doing a task and someone will come along and say, "Why are the lights off?" and I didn't realize that it was that dark. I also get very cold, very easily. An old friend once said that as soon as it hits below 72 degrees, there I go grabbing a blanket and a heater.
Where are you from/Where do you live?
I was originally born in Los Angeles and I live in the IE (inland empire) of California.
Who is your favorite poet?
That's an unfair question because there is just so so many. I will say that my favorite writers are Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Leguin. Science fiction, NOT poetry, is my go to for reading. Something about the human and alien, the future and the past, the recognizable and technological other always gets me going. I think that the idea, you know, the big question or great truth is almost... almost... as important as the language.
Nikia is a Cave Canem Fellow, and will be going to Millay Colony of the Arts this September. She is also putting together a "call and response" anthology for Black History http://www.callanthology.wordpress.com. Her book Sis Fuss can be found on Amazon.