Interview with Read Women contributor, Krystal Languell

Krystal Languell —Locked Horn Press contributor (find her in Read Women: An Anthology), poet, editor of Bone Bouquet, core member of the Belladonna* Collaborative, killer reading organizer (see the first question below!), and altogether amazing poetry renaissance woman— was kind enough to interview with LHP this month. So! Co-founding editor, Katie Fagan, picked her brain about readings, what really locks her horns, and what the heck she's reading (among other things).

KF: Krystal—many, many thanks for orchestrating the November 21st reading at Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop. It was such a joy to be able to experience our LHP contributor's work first-hand, from their own lips. Magic! The reading was such a fabulous and intimately charged event—so much art in one space. As the host, what was your favorite part about it? And, generally speaking, what is your favorite part about hosting or attending readings? What do you see as their primary function(s)?

KL: At the Berl’s reading and in terms of curating or hosting events, my favorite part was the crowd! Leah Umansky’s parents were in the front row. Cheryl J. Fish, who teaches at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, brought a big crowd. As far a s I know, none of the readers, which also includes Angela Veronica Wong and Pia Aliperti, knew each other prior to the event. None of them were friends already, so the crowd was a truly unique blend.

I think it’s nearly criminal in NYC to see the same people over and over again when there are so many millions of human beings here. When I get out to events as a reader or a listener, I try to go to new venues where perhaps I know just one of the performers. I want to be surprised. So last year I went to Lincoln Center outdoors where LaTasha Diggs curated a multi-media performance, and I saw Douglas Kearney perform for the first time. I was blown away! I first met Erica Doyle when Emily Skillings suggested we host her at a Brooklyn bar reading—she blew my mind and we decided to publish proxy with Belladonna* after that! Right now, I need to be braver and get out of the house again to have these kinds of revelatory experiences as a listener.

So I would say discovery is the primary function of a reading, as a listener, and likewise from the perspective of a reader/performer too; I read my poetry in public in hopes that the work will reach someone for whom it can be important and meaningful.

KF: Now that you’ve seen Read Women and Gendered & Written, what are your responses to it—especially your thoughts on the book that you contributed to? 

KL: I’m a contributor to Read Women, which has a rich variety of contributors from a diversity of places and lives. It’s a poignant sample of what all women are up to in poetry. I think it would make an excellent text for teaching, either in a poetry workshop or a women writers course, and I’d love to see it recommended for course adoption! Anthologies open the door for analysis and dialogue, and I’d love to see some engagement with these books out in the world. To that end, I’d be glad to run a review of either (or both) in a forthcoming issue of Bone Bouquet, if anyone out there wants to write one!

KF: What is your favorite book that you’ve read in the last two months? Why is it your favorite, and what makes it so unforgettable?

KL: In fiction, I just finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—amazing! Like lots of bestsellers, it seems the editors took a snooze for the last 15% or so but nonetheless resoundingly, consistently eye-opening. We here in the US ought to be paying more attention to Nigeria, and this is one of the writers to turn our heads. Right now I’m reading Assata Shakur’s Autobiography; I’m reading it on the treadmill at the gym, so I feel like I’m preparing for battle. I just read the part where she decides to have a child—she says something like she’s not going to let the police (who, of course, were violently abusing her if you don’t know her story) or the otherwise oppressive crap of the world make her reproductive decisions for her. 

KF: Given the concept of what LHP is—exploring the spaces where conflict exists—what are the issues that you like to “lock horns” with?

KL: God, I hate conflict, really! But the matter I come back to again and again, without conscious thought even, is class. This is what I lock horns with, which is not to say I think it’s the biggest of the problems in the world—if that were the question, I’d talk about racism, sexism, war, homophobia, domestic violence, for starters.

But social class is a huge internal conflict for me. It creeps in when someone corrects my pronunciation. Writers like Eileen Myles and Dodie Bellamy are important to me for this reason; their work shows them at times failing to pass for middle class, or doing so and feeling weird about it. There’s a lot else going on in their work, but this is what I search for in it and feel glad to find. It’s what appealed to me like 5 or 7 years ago when I first read Dodie’s Barf Manifesto and Eileen’s Everyday Barf. Like, oh barf and shit, I get it. These are my people.

KF: And lastly, what gets you out of bed in the morning? 

KL: Literally, my cats meowing or the need to move the car from one side of the street to the other. But in terms of inspiration, it’s hope that what I’m building with Belladonna* and Bone Bouquet will continue to grow day by day.



Krystal Languell was born in South Bend, Indiana. She is the author of the books Call the Catastrophists (BlazeVox, 2011) and Gray Market (Coconut, 2015), and the chapbooks Last Song (dancing girl press, 2014), and Be a Dead Girl (Argos Books, 2014). In early 2014, Fashion Blast Quarter was published as a poetry pamphlet by Flying Object. Forthcoming work includes a collaboration with Robert Alan Wendeborn, Diamonds in the Flesh (Double Cross Press), and a collection of interviews, Archive Theft (Essay Press). A core member of the Belladonna* Collaborative, she also edits the journal Bone Bouquet. She is a 2014-2015 Lower Manhattan Cultural Council workspace resident.