Tiana Clark
2017-2018 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing;
2017 Furious Flower’s Gwendolyn Brooks Centennial Poetry Prize; 2016 Academy of American Poets University Prize; 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize
 

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Equilibrium

Just as Phillis Wheatley picked up that piece of coal to write her first words as a child, I come from that charcoal and from that strain of self-reliance and survival that has persisted from the middle passage till now. In fact, it is in my blood. As a Black poet, I see myself braided into that string of impossible circumstances. In my work, one of my main interests is to interrogate female muses from mythology, literary history, popular culture, and my own ancestry.

I engage my flood subjects in conversation with my muses: my mother, my grandmother, and great grandmother (a slave from Warrior, North Carolina) as well as Daphne, Carrie Mae Weems, Terpsichore, Eurydice, Nina Simone, Phillis Wheatley, and, yes, even Rihanna. A transformation occurred when Ibegan to view the female muses as a type of reclamation, an idea embodied in the concept of Sankofa from the Twi language of Ghana. Sankofa comes from the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi" which translates to: "It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten." By examining and salvaging knowledge from the past, I ground my poetics within an intellectual history of the African American experience. I will continue to pursue this as I step into my voice and tend to my poems, always trying to claim my truths by standing firm in my lyric “I,” which has always, especially for Black and women’s literary traditions, meant “we.”


At once sharp quills and delicate works of lace, Clark’s poems engage with traditional and non-traditional formal poetry in exciting ways.. — Los Angeles Review of Books

But Clark doesn't just want to attack the subject with anger. In each poem, she looks for restoration. — The Tennessean

Sad, violent, frustrating stories told in high-energy language, creating a very real imaginary world. — The Blue Shift Journal

 

Biography

Tiana Clark is the 2017-2018 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing. She is the author of Equilibrium, selected by Afaa Michael Weaver for the 2016 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Tiana is the winner of the 2017 Furious Flower’s Gwendolyn Brooks Centennial Poetry Prize, 2016 Academy of American Poets University Prize, and 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, BOAAT, Best New Poets 2015, Crab Orchard Review, Muzzle Magazine, Thrush, The Journal, and elsewhere. She graduated from Vanderbilt’s MFA program where she served as the poetry editor of the Nashville Review.

Tiana grew up in Nashville and southern California. She is a graduate of Tennessee State University where she studied Africana and Women's studies. She has received scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Sewanee Writers' Conference, Frost Place Poetry Seminar, and New Harmony Writers Workshop. You can find her online at tianaclark.com.