Van G. Garrett was awarded a 2006 Hurston/Wright Fellowship for poetry, a 2004 and 2002 Callaloo Creative Writing Fellowship for poetry and the Danny Lee Lawrence prize for poetry. His poems have appeared in The Amistad, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, ChickenBones, Life Imitating Art, Swirl, Drumvoices Revue, Shank’s Mare, Urban Beat, E! Scene and elsewhere. His reviews have appeared or will appear in Rolling Stone.com, Obsidian III, African American Review, Moria, ChickenBones, and elsewhere.
He has also made a name for himself as a photographer, as his photography has appeared in Source Magazine, has been on display at the Museum of Fine Arts of Houston, the Walter Branch Public Library, the University of Rhode Island, and has been contracted by the Houston Museum of Natural Science and Capitol Records.
Van G. Garrett earned his MAIS from University of Houston-Victoria and his BA from Houston Baptist University.
Five (Six) Questions with Van G. Garrett:
1. How long have you been writing poetry?
I have been writing poetry (professionally) for 11 years.
2. Who are your favorite poets? Which poets have most inspired you and informed your work?
I have a lot of poets I admire. Some of the poets I read or listen to regularly are: Gwendolyn Brooks, Sandra Cisneros, Lucille Clifton, Chuck D., Mos Def, Cornelius Eady, Public Enemy, Nikki Giovanni, Terrance Hayes, A. Van Jordan, Bob Marley, Adrian Matejka, Sade, and Gary Soto.
3. What do you hope to accomplish with your poetry?
I would like my poetry to reach people all over the world. I am currently working on a project based in London, and my poetry DVD’s “Dancing On-Air”, which appeared on HBO’s The Wire: Spoken Word Battle (Fall 2006) and “A Dragging in TX” are being reviewed in various locations.
4. What do you love so much about Africa that makes you write about her?
“Why do I love Africa?” To quote the Neville Brothers, “That’s my blood down there.” My ancestors are African. Africa is the long-stretching root that supplies a strong source for my creativity. I feel that every creative thing I do, whether it is dancing, writing, or painting, is greatly influenced by my African heritage. Furthermore, I know the cadences and meter in my poetry is African-influenced, especially when one pays attention to where I stress certain syllables or truncate certain lines; reflective of various dialects practiced on the Continent.
5. This poem is a Kwansaba. Can you speak briefly to what this means and how this structure influenced the poem?
Professor Eugene Redmond introduced me to the Kwansaba about four or five years ago. It is a seven line poem that has seven words in each line, and each word should not have more than seven letters (proper nouns excluded). I love the form because I like to say a lot in a compressed space. I use to write a lot of haiku, but over the last four years the majority of the poems I’ve written that have appeared or will appear in journals are Kwansabas.
6. Anything else you'd like to add?
I would like to thank One Ghana, One Voice for allowing me to share my views with its readers. Below is a listing of publications that that recently contained or will soon contain my poetry:
White Chimney, London (forthcoming)
Obsidian III, Volume 7, No.2 (forthcoming)
Sonia on My Mind, Sonia On My Mind Anthology Project (forthcoming)
The Amistad, Howard University (Fall 2006)
Drumvoices Revue, Volume 14, Numbers 1 & 2 (Spring-Summer-Fall 2006)