Qiana Towns

qianaThis Is Not the Exit (Aquarius Press/Willow Books, 2015)

What are some of your favorite chapbooks? Or what are some chapbooks that have influenced your writing?

I really adore Phillip Williams’s Bruised Gospel and Charles Gabel’s Pastoral. I carried them with me for many years. I also love Natasha Marin’s Fando & Lis.

What might these favorite or influential chapbooks suggest about you and your writing?

That I’m a big fan of good books and great people!

What’s your chapbook about?

That is a damn good question. It might be about everything I’m afraid of, especially when it comes to my fears as a writer/ poet/ creative-type. I am not always sure about what I’m supposed to be doing. Purpose. I’m not sure of my purpose. I’m even less sure if my choices are the right ones. I was thinking about this as I assembled the poems for the chapbook, and I tried to select the poems that felt most connected to my fears. I called my chapbook This is Not the Exit because I was no closer to the answer even after I’d finished arranging and polishing the book.

To what degree did you collaborate on the cover image and design of your chapbook?

Since it was my first time, I didn’t know what I wanted the cover image to look like. I contacted a few people I knew who sent me images. They were all great pieces, but they didn’t seem right for the text, so I reached out to a friend, who reached out to poet/ photographer Thomas Sayers Ellis. Now that was a dream come true. I admire Ellis as an artist, so to have his work on the cover of my chapbook…Bazinga! He sent me some photographs and they were all great images. When I got down to my final two choices, I had to ask for help from my advisory circle since I had such a difficult time choosing. They chose one photo and I went with the other. I don’t know why they haven’t kicked me to the curb.

What are you working on now?

Writing is slow for me these days. I’m looking for a full time teaching job since my last position was eliminated when the satellite campus where I taught for seven years closed down. I have a lot of ideas about what I want to write about. Social justice. Capital punishment. San Quentin State Prison. Bad prison guards. Gang banging. All of these things.


 Qiana Towns’s poem, “Social Regard,” was selected as the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize by the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature. She was the Fall 2014 writer-in-residence for the Writers @ The Carr program and will conduct workshops at the center for under-served youth in Detroit. She is a Cave Canem fellow and editor for Reverie: Midwest African American Literature. Most recently, her work appears in The Crab Orchard Review.




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