giovanni singleton, (image from Harriet: a poetry blog)

The beauty of poetry is that is can exist outside conventional form, instead twisting and moving to a poet’s intent. The avant-garde poem below by giovanni singleton transformed words into images, created a cage made out of birds, the “caged bird.”

singleton received her BA from American University in Washington, D.C. She found her interest in form as art during her time at the New College of California where she earned her MFA. As she explains in a 2011 Pen America interview, she views the page as a blank, or borderless, canvas she can fill.

Her collection Ascension was published in 2011, winning the California Book Award for Poetry. Fellow poet Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon said that her “poems are minimalist…ascension is process. The buildup is slow, and culminates as play, in the clear space left as we literally watch an I disappear. Thereafter, we find the blank page again. And time to make another poem.”

Her most recent collection, American Letters: works on paper, came out in 2017. She is also the founding editor of nocturnes (re)view of the literary arts, an annual publication through Small Press Distribution. As described, “the journal serves as a forum for examining and celebrating the natural connections between diverse artistic mediums as expressed through visual and written language.”

singleton ended a 2011 interview with a simple question, “Why do you still write?” As she explained, “at this point, I write out of habit-a wish to be free…Poetry is a way of developing, of cultivating, fearlessness. Writing and working with language makes the world, makes life, for me anyway, more tolerable and more true.”

Video: giovanni singleton reading for the Lunch Poems series, the first time she publicly read from her Ascension collection.

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