For Chicago poet Keith S. Wilson, receiving the Cave Canem fellowship allows him time to write about difficult subjects without distraction. “I’m working on a long piece considering the history of racial violence in America and the ways that it reflects larger echoes of violence in the world,” Wilson says. “I’m also working on a lot of poems that explore race, gender and otherness through the metaphorical scrim of Greek mythological creatures. I’m interested, always, in art that has something to say about social issues we are facing right this second.”
Cave Canem, founded in 1996 to remedy the under-representation and isolation of African-American poets in MFA programs and writing workshops, offers a fellowship twice a year, including this residency at The Millay Colony for the Arts in New York. Wilson describes the residency as “an opportunity to write. Just write. Not running to Walgreens at 10pm to get kitty litter, not finding myself strangely obsessed with animated owl gifs on Instagram, but reading, writing and editing my poems in a dedicated space. Reaffirming my passions. Like a metaphorical second wedding, maybe.”
“I am fortunate to have a family that has always fully supported my decision to forgo a more financially secure career in favor of the crazy, necessary thing that is art. Cave Canem has given me so many opportunities, and a poetry family that supports me as well. Even so, real life catches up, constantly, and I’m always scrambling for a moment to write between work and reminding my loved ones I’m still alive.”
Before he leaves for the residency, he will participate in the Spring of Latino Art, writing poetry based on Latino art. Wilson, an Affrilachian poet, is a graduate of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop and has an MFA in poetry from Chicago State University. His poetry has been published in two chapbooks, several anthologies and journals and his poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Award. He also works as a game designer. (Negesti Kaudo)
The Spring of Latino Art (Sola) runs March-June at more than forty Chicago institutions. For details, go to iuplr.uic.edu/springoflatinoart
Toni Nealie is the Literary Editor of Newcity and the author of the essay collection “The Miles Between Me.” A Pushcart Prize nominee, her essays have appeared in Guernica Magazine, Rust Belt: Chicago, The Rumpus, The Offing, Essay Daily, Chicago Quarterly Review, Hobart, Entropy and elsewhere. She worked in magazine journalism, politics and PR in her native New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Singapore and now edits, writes and teaches in Chicago. Find her at toninealie.com and on Twitter @tnealie. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.