National Poetry Month Celebration
Bio: Van G. Garrett (also known as Fui Koshi) is an internationally celebrated artist and author. As a visual artist, Van’s/ Fui’s photography, videos, and paintings have been on display or utilized by the museum of Fine Arts Houston; the University of Rhode Island; Rice University; the International Film Channel (IFC); the Indie Black Film Festival; The Aurora Picture Show; HBO’s The Wire: Spoken Word Battle; The Source, and Capitol Records. As a literary artist, Van has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a Book in a Day Fellowship (Italy); Dr. Kwame Nkrumah International Study Scholarship (Ghana); a Poets & Writers, Inc. Readings/ Workshops Grant; an Archie D. and Bertha H. Walker Foundation Scholarship to attend a Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship; a Hurston/Wright Fellowship for poetry; two Callaloo Creative Writing Fellowships; and a Great River Arts Institute Fellowship. Additionally, he has served as a judge for the National Poetry Slam.
His poetry has been published in journals and anthologies based in the United States, Africa, Switzerland, Turkey and London. Van has served as a referee for the International Journal of Asian Philosophical Association (IJAPA), and his reviews and articles have appeared in African American Review, Film and History: The Documentary Tradition (CD-ROM); and the Encyclopedia of African American History: 1896 to the Present; From the Age of Segregation to the 21st Century, Oxford University Press. His debut collection of poetry, Songs in Blue Negritude, is published by Xavier Review Press (2008). His touring schedule and events can be found at www.vanggarrettpoet.com.
Van earned his MAIS from the University of Houston-Victoria and his B.A. from Houston Baptist University. He is the first student to receive a graduate certificate in African American Studies from the University of Houston.
porcelain: a love poem
(cinema paradiso by chris botti playing in the background)
i never thought i would write
the word seems reserved for beautiful poems
my hands have yet to write
flecked with brilliance
like markings on koi fish:
of a saucer lined with watercolored blue flowers
holding hands like schoolchildren
playing at recess
should be composed in a special poem
uncommon and protected
safely nestled in a china cabinet
with elaborately carved lines
swirled like tuscan grapevines or calligraphy
a penned poem honoring my grandparents
who won me a pair of pajamas at a bingo game
gave me my first hundred dollar bill
when i graduated from high school
provided me with sheets
to cover my dorm bed in college
prayed for my
goings out and comings in
separately but equally fed me--
loved to see me devour heaps of food
piled unto plates that were only special
because we sat around them
like friends in playing circles at recess
or intricate flowers rounding a porcelain bowl
Where do you draw your inspiration from to write poetry?
I’m inspired by music and “on the road” experiences. I enjoy traveling/touring. When I’m in a new city, state, or country I find inspiration in new places, new people, and new experiences.
What advice do you have for someone that is threatened by poetry?
Poetry doesn’t have to be threatening. The best way that I can answer that question is via a poem published in my first book, Songs in Blue Negritude:
a poem doesn’t have to be hard
it can be soft
like a cloud or ripple
on a lake
it can be wonderful like a birthday
or a party--
as good as thick icing on a vanilla cake
it doesn’t need to say too much
but it should tell a story
it is a way to express your emotions:
the funny wonderful and scary
What is an interesting fact about you?
I sometimes buy coloring books and Crayons to help me relax (usually in a hotel) before a show or event. Van is also a certified USA Amateur Boxing Coach.
Where are you from / Where do you live?
I was born in Wharton, TX (south of Houston). I live in Houston, consider Austin my second home, and I try to get to the East Coast as often as possible. Usually in the summer and/or fall.
Who is your favorite poet?
That is a trick question. I can’t choose one. There are too many to name. I consider songwriters and rappers poets. I like Nikki Giovanni, Adrian Matejika, A. Van Jordan, Terrance Hayes, John Mayer, Jay-Z, Eminem, and a host of others to be my “favorites”.