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six questions with Kenneth Carroll and Marlena Chertock

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Kenneth Carroll and Marlena Chertock are the feature writers at the December Wilde Readings, a monthly community open mic supported by HoCoPoLitSo. Join Kenneth and Marlena as well as other open mic readers for a free reading on Zoom (and Facebook Live) on Tuesday, December 14 at 7 p.m. Click here to register for the free event. Click here for more details about the event.

We asked Kenneth and Marlena our favorite six questions about their reading and writing, and here’s what they had to say.

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

Kenneth: My mother.

Marlena: I often write autobiographical poetry, so I guess I show up most in those pieces. My short stories focus on science fiction about climate change. I’m drawn to writing about astronauts, especially unlikely ones — the astronauts I’ve written about are disabled, mentally ill, young, or stuck on Earth due to too much space trash.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Kenneth: Any place where I’m supposed to doing something else.

Marlena: I tend to write on my computer because I have terrible handwriting and am a fast typist. But if I’m spending time outside on a nice day, I sometimes remember to bring a journal. Writing under trees is especially inspiring and calming.

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

Kenneth: Review my notes.

Marlena: Not really. I tend to write when the inspiration strikes, which is always at random times. Often when I should be sleeping.

Who always gets a first read?

Kenneth: The ancestors.

Marlena: I share pretty much every single poem and shitty first draft with my friend Codi, who was in the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House with me at the University of Maryland. It’s nice to stay in the habit of sharing writing, which can be so isolated. But I’ve been grateful to have found such a welcoming writing community in the Washington, D.C. area.

What is a book you’ve read more than twice (and would read again)?

Kenneth: August Wilson, Two Trains Running

Marlena: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado.

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

Kenneth: Lucille Clifton at St. Mary’s College.

Marlena: I was so lucky that Patricia Smith visited my class at the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House when I was a junior. She was such a gracious visitor, taking all our questions and reading some of our baby poems. When she took the stage for her reading that night, her whole presence shifted. Her voice, her cadence, her power — it was palpable!

Kenneth Carroll is a native Washingtonian whose poetry has appeared in Icarus, In Search of Color Everywhere, Potomac Review, Worcester Review, Obsidian, Words & Images Journal, Indiana Review, American Poetry: The Next Generation, Beyond the Frontier, Gargoyle, Spirit & Flame, and Penguin Academics Anthology of African American Poetry. His book of poetry is entitled So What: for the White Dude Who Said This Ain’t Poetry, published by Grace Cavalieri. He is former director of DC WritersCorps and the African American Writers Guild and a former Pushcart nominee. He is married and the proud father of a daughter and two sons.

Marlena Chertock has two books of poetry, Crumb-sized: Poems (Unnamed Press) and On that one-way trip to Mars (Bottlecap Press). She uses her skeletal dysplasia as a bridge to scientific poetry. She is queer, disabled, and a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee. Marlena serves as Co-Chair of OutWrite, Washington, D.C.’s annual LGBTQ literary festival, and on the Board of Split This Rock, a nonprofit that cultivates poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social change. Her poetry and prose has appeared in AWP’s The Writer’s Notebook, Breath & Shadow, The Deaf Poets Society, Lambda Literary Review, Little Patuxent Review, Noble/Gas Quarterly, Paper Darts, Paranoid Tree, Plants & Poetry, Washington Independent Review of Books, WMN Zine, Wordgathering, and more. Find her at marlenachertock.com and @mchertock.


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