Kokumo: On Her New Poetry Collection, the Search For Love, and the Determination to Survive
Author: H. Melt
September 4, 2016
“This book has been in me my whole life. And I’d say what inspired it was the need to celebrate the genius of how I survived and survive a world that is consistently telling me I’m not welcome.”
Kokumo is an accomplished artist and activist based out of Chicago. This month sees the release of her first poetry book, Reacquainted with Life (Topside Press). The collection is a powerful testament to dynamism and fortitude in the face of extreme adversity.
From the publisher:
[Kokumo’s] poetry, is what happens when the piece of shit you stepped in, corporealizes then knocks you the fuck out. And no! Resilience, has never sounded sexier.
Lambda spoke with Kokumo about her debut collection, the search for love, and her relationship with Chicago.
In the opening poem of your book Reacquainted With Life, you write, “soufside Chi til u muthafuckin die.” Can you start off by talking about your relationship to Chicago? How do you think the city has impacted your creativity?
There are times when I’m proud to be from Chicago, then there are times when I know I need to leave. Chicago has impacted my creativity in the sense that so much of my work was about creating, because there was nothing here for me or before I came. But either way I’m proud of my contribution to Chicago and I’m proud of the ways I’ve been resilient in relation to Chicago.
When I initially learned that you were releasing a poetry book, I was pleasantly surprised. I knew you were involved in music, theater, and performance but didn’t realize you wrote poetry as well. What inspired you to write this book and use the medium of poetry?
This book has been in me my whole life. And I’d say what inspired it was the need to celebrate the genius of how I survived and survive a world that is consistently telling me I’m not welcome.
I first came to know you through your work as an activist, especially as an organizer of TGIF (Trans, Gender Nonconforming, Intersex Freedom)–the first trans pride event in Chicago. One theme in this collection is the feeling of being burned out. How can activists and trans people in general maintain their mental and physical health in a world that treats us violently? Was writing this book part of a healing process for you?
I feel that the most important thing to do is realize the hoops will be here tomorrow. So for me it’s not about changing the world but just making my contribution to it. That may not do anything for anyone else, but it gives me the okay to breathe.
In the book, you say “But, who, gun, luh, me? Lumme when I puts down, da bullhorn?” Love is another major theme in the book–when and where have you felt most loved in your life?
I struggle with feelings of love to be honest. I have always loved myself. But the honest struggle for me was in finding someone brave enough to love me back. And quite frankly I’m still waiting on that man. But in the meantime, I ask to be prepared for someone I can struggle in love with, as opposed to just struggling alone.
Lastly, can you tell us a little bit about your plans for the book? Who would you like it to reach? Will you be doing readings or traveling in support of its publication? Are there any other projects you are currently working on that we should be excited about?
The plan is to just let the book take on a life of it’s own. I know that I have a following and I hope it receives Reacquainted with Life well.