Rowan Hisayo Buchanan is a writer based in London, UK. Rowan’s second novel, Starling Days, is a beautiful story about the complex love between the book’s two protagonists, Mina and Oscar, and their respective challenges in the wake of Mina’s suicide attempt. Starling Days explores family and love in many forms, and how people both connect and separate. In our conversation, Rowan and I discussed the depiction of mental illness in her book, how she approached writing the multifaceted relationships between the book’s characters, and why it was important to her to include multiracial characters. Then in the second segment, we talked about faith and how we make and find meaning.
(Conversation recorded March 30, 2021.)
Farrah Karapetian is an artist based in California. Known for her large-scale photograms, Farrah’s wide-ranging practice incorporates sculpture, performance, and different forms of mark-making to stretch the photographic medium as she is driven by her intense and rigorous curiosity. In our conversation, Farrah and I talked about the appeal of the photographic medium, the tension between constructing an image and the happy accident, and the ethics of artistic beauty. Then in the second segment, we discussed the Nardal sisters and how we develop a language around issues like exoticization.
(Conversation recorded March 24, 2021.)
Tucson-based photographer Ken Rosenthal's work has always stuck in my mind for both its striking visual style and the way that he uses images to represent and explore his internal emotional and psychological state. Whether he's looking at landscapes or family members or familiar objects, his photographs resonate because they represent the personal. We talked about several bodies of work, including his recent series The Forest and a work in progress called Days On the Mountain. For the second segment, Ken and I talked about change, and how when it comes in our personal lives it can spur us to new heights in our work.
(Recorded June 22, 2016. Originally released August 3, 2016.)
For this installment of the KTCO Book Club, poet and podcaster Gabrielle Bates joins me for a conversation about Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s 1994 poetry collection Song. In our conversation, Gabrielle and I talked about how Kelly builds the worlds of her poems, how the poems layer metaphor, and how the poems manage to be simultaneously (and paradoxically) both surreal and grounded.
(Conversation recorded February 4, 2021.)
Kary Wayson is a poet based in Seattle, WA. The poems Kary’s latest collection, The Slip, are wonderfully slippery in both form and feeling, in a way that demands attention and rewards deep engagement. In our conversation we discussed what a poem can do, how we approach “meaning” in poetry, and how life changes affect our art. Then in the second segment, we talked about time and our human perception of duration.
(Conversation recorded January 5, 2021.)
Bonus Reading: Subscribers to the Likewise Media Patreon campaign can hear Kary read her poem “Untitled Poem (for a Feeling).”
My friend Paula Riff passed away recently, after having been ill with cancer for two years. Paula was a wonderful, kind, generous, and enthusiastic person, and a brilliant artist whose work pushed the boundaries of the photographic medium. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to talk with her about that work for the show. In our conversation, Paula and I talked about what photography is to her, why she’s attracted to alternative processes, and how her work is ultimately autobiographical. Then for the second segment, we talked about the value of physical art spaces. In honor of her memory, I’m re-sharing our conversation today. Rest in peace, Paula.
(This episode was originally released on January 15, 2020. Conversation recorded December 3, 2019.)
For this installment of the KTCO Book Club, writer Wm Henry Morris joins me for a conversation about Sofia Samatar’s 2017 story collection Tender. The stories in this collection range from fairy tale and folklore to dystopian sci-fi to (almost) contemporary realism, but all have in common Samatar’s impeccable prose, attention to detail, and exceptional readership.
(Conversation recorded December 19, 2020)
Kazim Ali is a writer based in San Diego, CA. Kazim’s latest poetry collection, The Voice of Sheila Chandra, uses sound to explode meaning and explore silence and voicelessness, bringing together history, philosophy, spirituality, and personal experience to create something truly profound. In our conversation, Kazim and I discussed the divine in art, what the sound of poetry can embody and enact, and the fundamental oneness of human life. Then for the second segment, we talked about music.
(Conversation recorded December 17, 2020.)
Rizzhel Mae Javier is a photographer and installation artist based in San Diego, CA. I first met Rizzhel when we were both participating in the portfolio reviews at the Medium Festival a few years ago, and her stop-motion, flipbook-style pieces immediately caught my attention. More recently, Rizzhel was named one of the 2017 emerging artists by the SD Art Prize for her "Unmentionables" project, creating new art out of old mementos. We had a great conversation for the show about her artistic process, what she loves about making mistakes, and her experience as a teacher. For the second segment, Rizzhel chose the Philippines as her topic.
(This episode was originally released on August 16, 2017. Conversation recorded July 26, 2017.)
José Olivarez is a poet living and working in Chicago, Illinois, and is also co-host of one of my all-time favorite podcasts, The Poetry Gods. In our wide-ranging conversation we talked about how The Poetry Gods came to be, toxic masculinity in the poetry world, and how discovering poetry allowed José to find his artistic voice. In the second segment, we talked about beginnings and endings.
(This episode was originally released on February 15, 2017. Conversation recorded January 1, 2017.)
Esmé Weijun Wang's debut novel The Border of Paradise was one of my favorite books of 2016. A multigenerational epic centered on an interracial family, the Nowaks, this book touches on so many profound topics, from mental illness to intergenerational trauma to culture clash to the very question of what it means to be a family, all done in stunningly beautiful prose. Esmé and I had a great conversation about her book in the first segment, and in the second segment we chatted about our favorite social media platform: Twitter.
(This episode was originally released on September 14, 2016. Conversation recorded July 19, 2016.)
Jordanna Kalman is a fine art photographer who lives and works in New York. Jordanna’s work explores loneliness, femininity and individuality, and the images are highly personal. In her series Little Romances, she rephotographs prints of earlier images of hers which had been stolen and misused. By considering the prints as objects and adding new elements, she creates a new narrative, examining the anxieties of being a woman and creating a form of protection for the image. In our conversation we discussed prints as still-life subjects, what anger can accomplish, and our mutual dislike of “mean” photography. Then in the second segment we discussed a recent Instagram dust-up between two photographers, and how it’s relevant to our larger society.
(Conversation recorded October 21, 2020.)
For this installment of the KTCO Book Club, I’m joined by writer Alyssa Harad for a conversation about Tove Jansson’s 1982 novel The True Deceiver. Despite the slimness of the volume, Jansson’s novel yet contains a surprising degree of depth and complexity, not to mention psychological tension, in a story that challenges the reader to consider the nature of truth, honesty, and different forms of deception.
(Conversation recorded September 22, 2020.)
Maggie Smith is a poet and essayist based in Bexley, Ohio. Maggie’s new book Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change was born out of a difficult life change; it both discusses and is an example of resilience and hope in the face of an unknown future. In our conversation, we talked about the book’s origins in a series of social media notes-to-self, about becoming an essayist after having been a poet for so long, and about finding agency through language. Then for the second segment, we talked about community and connection via social media.
(Conversation recorded September 10, 2020.)
In the inaugural KTCO Book Club episode I’m joined by writer and podcaster David Naimon, host of the literary podcast Between the Covers. For our conversation, David selected Teju Cole and Fazal Sheikh’s hybrid photo/prose book Human Archipelago. In their collaboration, Cole’s writing and Sheikh’s images support each other in a way that expands the form of the traditional photobook and provides a potent exploration of human migration, national boundaries, imperialism, the connections between people, and our responsibilities to one another.
(Recorded September 2, 2020.)
David Adjmi is a writer and playwright based in Los Angeles, CA. In his new memoir Lot Six, David tells the story of how he found himself through art and the theater, growing up feeling like an outsider as a gay, atheist, artistic youth in a small and insular Syrian Sephardic Jewish community in Brooklyn. In our conversation, David and I discussed the craft of memoir, the process of constructing one’s own identity, and why his book isn’t structured like the typical gay narrative. Then in the second segment, we discussed how the pandemic is affecting our ability to make narratives, and how art can function as a community.
(Conversation recorded August 31, 2019.)
Jessica Eaton is a photographer based in Montreal, Quebec. At first glance, the minimalist compositions in Jessica’s images might seem simple, but the process behind their creation is anything but. Using a series of color filters and a painstaking multiple exposure technique, she is able to use light to construct color. In our conversation, we discussed her photographic technique, her impulse toward iteration, and why her work is not abstract. Then in the second segment we talked about coming to big life changes during a pandemic.
(Conversation recorded August 3, 2020.)
Matthew Salesses is a writer based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Matthew’s new novel, Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear, is darkly funny, unsettling in the best way, and wholly original, the story of a Korean American man struggling simply to exist as he feels himself literally disappearing. In our conversation, Matthew and I discussed his book, the trap of the first-person perspective, and what it means to take responsibility. Then in the second segment, we talked about the meaning of love.
(Conversation recorded July 8, 2020.)
Ross Sutherland is a writer and podcaster based in Peterborough, UK. Ross’s podcast Imaginary Advice is one of my favorites in any genre. Blending poetry, essay, and audio fiction with a wonderfully experimental approach to sound design, Imaginary Advice sounds like nothing else. In our conversation, Ross and I talked about what it’s like to make a podcast without a format, why starting with form can lead to unexpected discovery, and what collaboration can open up for a project. Then in the second segment, Ross and I talked about his recent difficulties trying to learn yoga via YouTube.
(Conversation recorded July 17, 2020.)
Richard Georges is a writer, editor, and lecturer in the British Virgin Islands. In his second collection of poems, Giant, Richard gives us a portrait of the BVI through landscape, through its history and its present. In our conversation, Richard and I talked about his book, the aftermath of empire in the BVI, and the relationship between poetry and myth. For the second segment, Richard talked about the particular moment that the BVI faced in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
(Conversation recorded June 12, 2018.)
Alanna Airitam is a portrait photographer based in San Diego, CA. In her series "The Golden Age," Alanna makes portraits of African Americans in the style of the Dutch Realism Golden Age of painting, images full of grace and beauty representing black people in a fine art context, a context from which they are all too often excluded. In our conversation we talked about that series, as well as her "Being Heard" project, which began as a response to seeing how different marginalized women were being excluded from the mainstream activist narrative. Then for the second segment, Alanna and I had a wide-ranging conversation about the roots of social injustice in our society.
(Conversation recorded April 10, 2018.)
Leah Huizar is a poet originally from Southern California. Leah’s collection Inland Empire juxtaposes personal history with California history, excavating different layers of colonialism and centering Mexican-American women. In our conversation, we talked about what it means to own or be of a place, the stories behind California history, and what parts of history we carry forward to the next generation. Then in the second segment, we discussed the value of creative endurance.
(Conversation recorded May 14, 2020.)
In solidarity with the ongoing protests against police violence, Keep the Channel Open is postponing our regular episode this week and participating in the #PodcastBlackout.
Maggie Tokuda-Hall is a writer and podcaster based in San Francisco, CA. Maggie’s debut YA novel, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea, is a swashbuckling pirate fantasy, and it’s also a nuanced and subversive story about colonialism, the power of storytelling, and the cost of violence. In our conversation, Maggie and I talked about her love of working in multiple forms and genres, the presentation of race in her novel, and writing the horrificness of violence. Then in the second segment, we discussed how to talk to our kids about problematic books and authors.
(Conversation recorded April 29, 2020.)
Sarah Gailey is a writer based in Los Angeles, CA. Sarah’s latest novel, the YA fantasy When We Were Magic, is a wonderful story about teen friendship, magic, and queer love. In our conversation, we talked about the importance of representation and sensitivity edits, writing YA that respects teens, and how it’s okay to take up space in one’s relationships. Then for the second segment, we talked about something that’s been on all of our minds lately: food.
(Conversation recorded April 21, 2020.)