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Verses and Visions: An Interview with Kwame Sound Daniels, author of the pause and the breath

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Kwame Sound Daniels is a traditional and fiber artist based out of Maryland. Xe are an Anaphora Arts Residency Fellow and an MFA candidate for Vermont College of Fine Arts. Xir first collection of poetry, Light Spun, was published in 2022 with Perennial Press. Xir second book, the pause and the breath, was on Lambda Literary’s Most Anticipated for January and came out in 2023 with Atmosphere Press. Kwame learns plant medicine, paints, and makes what can tentatively be called potions in xir spare time.

You can buy the pause and the breath here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

It felt unreal to hold the book in my hands, to be honest. I had already had a book published before the pause and the breath but—how do I say this? It felt like I was moving forward and building something by my second book. It felt like I was beginning to shape my sense of who I was as an artist.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I think it was a combination of things. I took an aptitude test when I was in middle school that said I should be a writer or journalist. I remember thinking that I had too much wrong with me to even focus on finishing a project. I never finished anything when I was a kid. Too distracted, too traumatized. But I healed, and my secret childhood dream that I never thought would happen did.

I want to say music influences me a lot mood-wise. It can be music in any language but the vibes have to be right. Writers who have shaped how I write have been Ross Gay, Anna Akhmatova, and Vladimir Mayakovsky. I think my own art influences how I write. I’m a painter as well! I played with structure a lot alongside developing my style in suprematism and cubism for around four years straight.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I was a cook, actually, for a decent amount of time—about four to five years. I had to quit because I developed fibromyalgia, and I miss it, but I keep up my skills trying to cook most of my meals from scratch. I like to dabble in cuisines from around the world. Right now I’m fixating on Spanish, Azerbaijani, and Turkish cuisine.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

Seeing my skills develop, I think. From beginning to end, I’m growing.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

SOPHIE’s album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides for sure, but specifically, Infatuation, It’s Okay to Cry, and Immaterial. I think also Anjimile’s Maker, Giver Taker, Ndimakukonda, and 1978. That was the major part of my soundtrack the winter and spring that I wrote my book.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

Currently I’m crocheting a tote bag for my friend who says she has “grandma style,” so I chose coffee-colored granny squares. Soon I’ll be making a backpack for myself! I’m also working on an abstract piece for my friend—I’ve been getting into palette knife painting recently to loosen up my style.

I’m working on a seven-book series I might self-publish. We’ll see! It’s in a genre that’s a hard sell for traditional and even most indie publishers. It’s not quite fully embraced in the West yet, but I’m writing it because that’s what I like and I wanted to play with genre conventions. I’m also writing a book of afro-solarpunk poetry. And finally, I’m trying to get better at digital art so I can develop a style depicting people and animals. I’ve got a lot going on, haha!

You can buy the pause and the breath here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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