Name: Kelly Grace Thomas
Hometown: Long Beach Island, NJ
Current City: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: Manager of Education and Pedagogy for Get Lit- Words Ignite, as well as poet, editor, and author
What does poetry mean to you?
Poetry, for me, is distilled into two entities, emotion or experience. We turn to poetry to wrangle or wrestle with emotions. We also turn to poetry to understand experience. To examine and create conversation with what life has give us. Ocean Vuong said, “Poets survive by looking.” Poetry is the lense in which the world, ourselves, light and darkness blur or come into focus. Either way it is a poet’s words and attention that give it shape.
Patricia Smith. Hands down. I learned so much about language and surprise by studying Patricia. She is a master at making it fresh. Every time I lean into one of her ripe metaphors, her similes with teeth, I think, language has never bit me like that before. Words have never shocked me in such a way. She is also a master of form, dancing with ghazals and sestinas. And inside these structures she turns language and turns us, until the reader is inside out. I also love that Patricia writes with an urgency, an earthquaking expression, as if to say look, pay attention. Now.
I really love all her work but particularly the book Blood Dazzler. I grew up spending a lot of time on my father’s boat in Florida. It seems we were always outrunning a hurricane. There was always a storm breathing down my neck. I began to think of them as characters. I have always been fascinated how Patricia wrote a book about Hurricane Katrina, from multiple points of view, including the voice of the hurricane.
Why do you like this collection?
I am a sucker for metaphor. I love the way Patricia brings in the voice of Hurricane Katrina through metaphor. “I become /a mouth, thrashing hair, an overdone eye. /How dare the water belittle my thirst.” She creates a voice that is in charge and taking no shit. The storm is there, hungry for power, demanding worship. I just love how we can see the transition from the need for attention to destruction. This poem also contains one of my favorite lines of all time, “Every woman begins as weather.” The idea of every woman beginning as storm or sunshine, waiting to gather, fascinates me. It is a fresh and honest connection to emotion and mothering. It also ties us to the beauty and danger of mother earth.
"5 P. M TUESDAY AUGUST 23, 2005"
by Patricia Smith
“Data from an Air Force reserve unit reconnaissance aircraft...along with observations from the Bahamas and nearby ships….indicate the broad low pressure area over the Southern Bahamas has become organized enough to be classified as tropical depression twelve.”
-NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER
A muted thread of gray light, hovering ocean,
Becomes throat, pulls in wriggle, anemone, kelp
widens with the want of it. I become
a mouth, thrashing hair, an ovedone eye. How dare
the water belittle my thirst, treat me as just
try to feed me
From of the bottom of its hand?
I will require praise,
Unbirdled winds to define my body.
a crime between my teeth
every women begins as weather,
sips slow thunder, knows her hips. Every woman
habors a chaos, can
wait for it straddling a fever.
I console myself with small furies
those dips in my dawning system. I pull in
a bored breath. The brine shivers.
Kelly Grace Thomas is the winner of the 2017 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor from Rattle, a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a Best of the Next nominee. BOAT/BURNED, her first full-length collection, is forthcoming from YesYes Books. Kelly’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in: DIAGRAM, Tinderbox, Nashville Review, Sixth Finch, Muzzle, PANK and more. Kelly currently works to bring poetry to underserved youth as the Manager of Education and Pedagogy for Get Lit-Words Ignite. She is also the co-author of Words Ignite: Explore, Write and Perform, Classic and Spoken Word Poetry (Literary Riot). Kelly was a 2016 Fellow for the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop. She is the founder of FeministWrites, a creative collective that connects and champions feminist voices. She is currently a reader for Tinderbox Poetry Journal. She lives in Los Angeles.