Emerging Author of the Month: Aisha Sasha John


Tell us about yourself.

I’m a poet and a dancer. Both my writing and my dance practices are spiritual practices. As a dancer, my work has recently been exclusively improvised, both without accompaniment and with improvising musicians. I consider my dance a prayer, a sort of exaltation through movement. My first poetry collection, The Shining Material, was published last year by BookThug. In it, I consider what grace is through the use of the self-portrait. The prosody of that book is intended to be a feast and is also trance-inducing. For me, that which induces trance or some sort of quiet space is a feast. Currently, I’m working on a manuscript calledThe Book of You. I’m not entirely sure what it’s about yet (or else I wouldn’t be writing it) but it might be a portrait via a series of letters. I know that in this work I will be asking about what honesty is, and I’m wondering if it might have something to do with desire and one’s comfort with/acknowledgement of various desires. There is a continuing investigation of grace in The Book of You too. Recently, a selection of it was published as a chapbook called Gimme yr little quiet.

Tell us about the piece you’ve decided to share.

This is a poem I wrote while reading some Sappho.

When and why did you realize you had a passion for writing?

I don’t know if I’ve ever “realized I had a passion for writing” much as I realized I had a passion for reading. And that was very early. I think maybe when I first learned to read—and I remember the exact moment—was probably the definitive point. Understanding that the groups of letters on the page corresponded to the words my mother was saying, and thus cumulatively to the meaning of the sentence, of the story, was astounding to me. It still is. It was so good, this reading business, that I wanted to be a part of it too. I wanted to do for others what had been done for me as a reader. And so I did. At this point, I need to write. I can’t not write. But that is because I made it a part of my living. I made it like that by doing it, writing regularly when I wanted to and also when I didn’t want to. The passion, then, is a product of a love for reading and a little bit of discipline.

What pieces of writing/authors have had the greatest impact on you?

This is too big of a question to answer precisely. So I will talk about the first poetry that made me not just want to write but to be a poet specifically—that is the poetry of Mr. Amiri Baraka. That decision was, and is, continually reinforced by the work of great and even good poets, but it was with Baraka that I got that first giddy giddy giddy feeling that manifested itself as ambition. Right now I am having that feeling with response to the work of Edmond Jabès, Aimé Césaire, and Jack Spicer.

What kind of writer do you aspire to be?

I aspire to be the kind of writer who goes and does what she needs to do.

How and when do you find time to write?

I don’t find time to write; I make time to write.