From a Newtown Literary contributor: Kimberly Reyes
Kimberly Reyes's poetry is featured in issue #16 of Newtown Literary. She is an award-winning poet and essayist and the author of three books: Warning Coloration (dancing girl press 2018), Life During Wartime (Fourteen Hills, 2018), and Running to Stand Still (Omnidawn, 2019). A native of Forest Hills, Kimberly currently lives in Cork, Ireland as a Fulbright fellow studying Irish literature and film. For more on Kimberly, you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and read more on her website.
When you think of Queens, what first comes to mind?
Scraping my knees on asphalt and concrete as a kid. Flushing Meadows park. My bike, my skateboard. My beloved New York Mets who is miss terribly right now. Many buses and trains to get anywhere and everywhere.
How does Queens influence your writing?
Well it’s my reference point of “home” and all that means. Growing up in a “two-fare zone” meant I was always in transit. I went to high school in the Bronx and when I moved back home after college, I worked in Manhattan so I got used to long commutes and being in my own head daydreaming and listening to music. A professor once told me my work was all about movement and it’s true. I think my state of constant transit, metaphorically and literally, has a lot to do with this.
What is the last piece of writing you read that made you laugh or cry (or just especially moved you)?
I watched Ava Duvernay’s “When They See Us” and then a friend suggested I read a 1990 Joan Didion essay about the case called “Sentimental Journeys.” Well, I say it’s about the case but it’s an indictment of America and its brutality and I had to keep stopping to breathe. I think it should be required reading in every nonfiction and history class.
What inspires you?
Quiet. I didn’t have it at all growing up but moving away from New York City showed me how essential it is for my writing and just my all-around mental health.
How did you come to write your new book, Running to Stand Still?
It started as the chapbook Warning Coloration. Then I thought: wait, there’s a through line here. There’s this girl, who may or may not be you at this point, with a lot more to say about her journey.
Music seems to play a large role in Running to Stand Still. Can you tell us about how that came to be? Do you listen to music while you write? If so, was there any particular kind of music or specific songs you found yourself returning to while writing the poems found in this collection?
Music is EVERYTHING to me. It was my first poetry. A lot of us who grew up in NYC know that poetry isn’t exactly an essential subject taught in public schools. But my body craved it, so I found my poetry in song. It took a long time to come to poetry but since my main poetic influences are songwriters, I wanted to stay true to that journey. I actually just started taking songwriting classes here in Ireland, virtually, with talented artists around the island. I write songs and my partners set them to music. I also just bought a guitar! I feel like I’m finally coming home to something.
I usually write in silence. I’ll put music on if I’m on a plane or train and need to drown out other noise but otherwise it’s a bit too distracting.
The songs I quote to divide the sections of Running to Stand Still are the songs that I had in my head while putting the manuscript together.
What is your writing process and how has it changed (if at all) in the last few months?
Well I’m actually writing, like A LOT, so that’s a nice change! The one good thing that has happened in all of this is that those of us lucky enough to not have to go to work have had a CRAZY amount of time at home to read and write. I’m on fire and so is the rest of the world, finally.
What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
Since I’m in Ireland getting a master’s degree in Irish Literature and Film, I’m working on my thesis. I’m also beginning to lay the groundwork for my next book of poems and completing work on a nonfiction book of essays.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
Now it’ll be learning the guitar. Condolences to my neighbors.