“My work comes from a place of needing to establish a self on the page, a previously unknown, concealed self.”
How to Cook a Ghost (Glass Poetry Press, 2017)
Could you tell us a bit about your growing up and your path to becoming a writer?
Growing up, my dad always bought us books. Different kinds. As an introverted child, that was gold to me. I didn’t have to go outside, or play sports. And somewhere in there, I wanted to make books too. But it really is surprising to see myself being a writer. I thought I would end up engaging with the other forms of art I make. Then I started to write, and I guess it was just meant to be.
How do you decorate your writing space?
No decorations, because I tend to do most of my writing on my phone, at least primarily. So I don’t have a desk or anything; I don’t take myself that seriously. I mostly just write in bed, or a cafeteria, or some private outdoor space.
Could you share with us a poem (or excerpt) from your chapbook? Perhaps one that introduces the work of the chapbook, or that invites the reader into the world of the chapbook?
DO YOU EVER DREAM ABOUT LEAVING?
how does a person dream without going to sleep?
YOU CLOSE YOUR EYES. YOU DRIFT. LIKE A FEATHER. if i could drift, i would drift far away.
WHERE WOULD YOU GO?
elsewhere. some other day. tomorrow.
I MEAN, WHERE?
places are like bodies. too temporary. days are better. days consume you.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE TOAST?
i am tired of toast. you always make toast. i hate toast.
SO WHAT DO YOU WANT?
silence. the kind that tumbles and fills a balcony.
I MADE YOU SOME TOAST.
– excerpt from Breakfast, Again
Why did you choose this poem (or excerpt)?
Well, I think this excerpt is so relevant in the experience of the chapbook as a whole. It captures the frustration, the loving, the craving that drives the whole collection.
What are some of your favorite chapbooks? Or what are some chapbooks that have influenced you?
Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib’s Vintage Sadness is definitely a favorite. Also, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire, it’s breathtaking. Safia Elhillo’s Asmarani is another chapbook I absolutely love.
What might these favorite or influential chapbooks suggest about your writing?
This is, I think, a more general implication, but like the work in these chapbooks, my work comes from a place of needing to establish a self on the page, a previously unknown, concealed self.
What obsessions led you to write your chapbook?
Ugh. I hate to say this, but I was obsessed with a boy. Or more accurately, I was obsessed with nursing the mangled heart he left in my hands. I was really sad & trying to deal with that & being unable to confide in my family, it was just pretty tough. I hate boys, but god, they’re beautiful.
What’s your chapbook about?
Wow, this is a surprisingly complex question. I think it’s about. . .me? I’m properly represented in it, my heartbreak, my longing, my sadness. My weird 17-year-old-ness. Coming to terms with my queerness, my complicated relationship with my family, love & loss. Like any other book, it’s about various things.
What’s the oldest piece in your chapbook? Or can you name one poem that catalyzed or inspired the rest of the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?
The oldest poem is Eggs, Scrambled, though they were all written around the same time. All I remember is it was a hot day and I was deep in my angsty feelings. The funny thing is, the actual poem that inspired the chapbook, Bloody Mary, I cut that out of the final draft. It didn’t fit, but it opened my eyes to the idea of writing a weird little cookbook.
How did you decide on the arrangement and title of your chapbook?
Culinary School, the poem where I write “to cook a ghost, / all you need is salt / and boiling water” was actually the last poem I drafted. The original idea was to have dinner with this ghost person, until I was like “hey what if I actually cooked the ghost instead?” so I drafted that & I knew that had to be the title.
The arrangement came to me easily. I knew I wanted to learn myself through my chapbook, so I wanted to start out as this dishonest speaker (Sugar Cookies) and end with a confession, which is the final line of Hostess: “Let me tell you I have been crying, too.”
Which poem in your chapbook has the most meaningful back story to you? What’s the back story?
Military School, definitely. When I was 10 or 11, I spent a year in military school, where my brothers went. That was where I had my first boy-crush, which I didn’t know was a boy-crush until much later. My chapbook is dedicated to him, actually. But I didn’t stay there because I basically manipulated my mom LOL. They would have filtered out something that I didn’t want to lose. So that poem was really liberating for me.
Which poem is the “misfit” in your collection and why?
Ha! Easily Portrait of My Country as a Cheap Restaurant. It wasn’t even a poem, originally, just a rant I banged out on my typewriter. Then when the rest of the chapbook was coming together, I decided I wanted it in there. Which is why it’s so loosely written. It’s basically a free-write with a little editing.
What was the final poem you wrote or significantly revised for the chapbook, and how did that affect your sense that the chapbook was complete?
Lemonade. My friends had read some drafts, and they thought it was fine, but I couldn’t stop feeling like it wasn’t there yet. So when I revised it to the final draft, I went & touched up Food Poisoning & I knew I was done.
Do you have a favorite revision strategy? What is it?
Draft, then edit until it feels right, then leave it for a week or two. Then edit until it feels right. I also read my poems aloud to test rhythm. And if it’s a collection, I try to keep an eye on the internal arc of the plot, that underlying story that tells itself across the poems.
What has the editorial and production experience with your press been like? To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?
Glass Poetry Press is THE best. No hyperbole here. I saw a painting by Gus Fink that I loved & I sent that to Anthony, and we decided to contact the artist to commission the painting on my cover. The design was super collaborative, too, I had my formatting down & Anthony respected that. I would bug him with stuff like “hey can we backspace twice here because. . .” and he’d fix it immediately. Anthony is the best publisher a boy could ask for, & I’m so grateful to call him my friend.
Is there a question you wish you would have been asked about your chapbook? How would you answer it?
Question: what song describes my chapbook best?
Answer: I Can’t Go On Without You, by Kaleo.
If you have written more than one chapbook or novella, could you describe each of them in chronological order?
How to Cook a Ghost was actually written while I was in the middle of another chapbook, which will be available in the winter, from Indolent Books. I imagine Ghost as the guy at a party who is a little tipsy from drinking rosé. Painted Blue with Saltwater is back home, alone in his bedroom with Jack Daniel’s and cheesy cheese Pringles.
What are you working on now?
A YA fantasy novel. Pretty little thing I hope to finish before the year runs out. And a full length poetry collection, but very organically & passively. I’m just letting the poems come to me for now, just stacking them until I’m ready to take that step.
What advice would you offer to students interested in creative writing?
Read, read, read. Even the stuff outside of your comfort zone. Read with a generous heart, too. And experiment with your poems, don’t be scared to mess them up. Trust yourself to tell your own story in your own voice. The poem is yours. Own it.
Logan February is a happy-ish Nigerian owl who likes pizza & typewriters. He is Co-Editor-In-Chief of The Ellis Review. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tinderbox, Wildness, Glass, Bateau, and more. He is author of How to Cook a Ghost (Glass Poetry Press 2017) & Painted Blue with Saltwater (Indolent Books 2018). Say hello on Instagram & Twitter @loganfebruary.