Poets of the Week: Will Giles and Kai Coggin
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Poets of the Week: Will Giles and Kai Coggin

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Poets of the Week: Will Giles and Kai Coggin
Will Giles & Kai Coggin

It is now the beginning of November and we've got right around 6 more articles left in this series. Who would've thought that many poets and many months later that we would be nearing the home stretch so soon? If you need to catch up on any of the previous interviews, you can find them all on my profile. Also, congratulations to Raven McGill and Todd Gleason for having the most shares in October (519!!!).

This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Will Giles, Hawaiian poet and first Pacific Islander to win NUPIC, and Kai Coggin, author of Wingspan and Periscope Heart. Here's what these poets had to say to kick off another month of interviews.

Q: Using a haiku, how would you define your poetry?

Will Giles:

just a whole raw heart

spitting blood on the clean floor

you just washed, sorry

Kai Coggin:

wild thing taking flight

hoping to reach nirvana

from this cold dark earth

Q: Where do you call home and what makes it special to you?

Will Giles: For me… the only home that endures are the arms of friends and loved ones. Cities change, but hearts endure. So if you’ve ever given me a hug, you’ve given me a home. And everything and everyone this is about is special to me.

Kai Coggin: I have called Bangkok and Houston home for most of my life, but right now, I live on the side of a mountain in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas. I LOVE it here. The 3 million acres of national forest and the 4,000 year-old volcanic healing hot springs water that flows out of the earth underneath me channel some pretty intense beauty and energy. I’ve written two full-length collections since moving here in 2012. Hot Springs is also home to the longest running consecutive open mic in the country, perhaps the world! Poetry has been happening in this little town every single Wednesday since February 1989, without ever missing a single week. 1,443 weeks in a row and counting. This is just a cool place to be. It’s a small arts community, and if you plant a creative seed here (with a pure heart) it blossoms. When I think of my poetry, its home is Hot Springs.

Q: What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you in the last year?

Will Giles: I think I have been working towards not being so hard on myself, when I think about all the passions and paths I never followed through on. But since that is still very much an in progress thing and not a thing thing… I’ll say the most exciting thing is that I fell in love. I suppose since I’m falling even more every day both of those are in progress. So the most exciting things are still happening. I can say that.

Kai Coggin: I would say Golden Dragonfly Press publishing my second collection, WINGSPAN. I am super proud of this collection because of the wide range of topics on which these poems touch. I poured my whole heart into this book, and there is a journey of fight and flight that occurs in the pages. I hope it reaches people. I hope the words, the message, the heart find a way out into the world.

Q: If you were an insect, what would you be and why?

Will Giles: Definitely a Caterpie that devolves at times. Cause I go through very intense phases (artistically and in life) of wallowing in the mud feeling lethargic and eating. Then I evolve into this sealed off Metapod shell while I feel isolated and hardened by the world. Then I evolve again and fly around as a Butterfree soaring through the air and shooting hyperbeams at everyone. Then I go back to crawling in the mud and eating, and do the whole thing over again.

Kai Coggin: I’d be a butterfly… the woman I love once told me they are like flying flowers, and I always see them like that now. They are movable beauty. No one sees a butterfly without feeling the colors, the flight, the dance. Spreading beauty in a harsh, ugly world is my mission. I have been the caterpillar, the chrysalis, the waiting pod. I know metamorphosis awaits everyone, and if you fight hard enough, your wings of purpose will form.

Q: Is the sky really blue? Explain.

Will Giles: I think the sky lets me exist without defining or putting me in a box and I’m going to do the same with it.

Kai Coggin: Depends on what planet you’re on.

Q: What poem currently means the most to you, yours or someone else’s?

Will Giles: Ahh I’m horrid with absolutes. The most, the best, my favorite. I’m too indecisive and I love too much to select just one. So I’ll just say right now I’m reading Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib’s The Crown Ain’t Worth Much and Chinaka Hodge's Dated Emcees . And those books are just constant beautiful gut punches.

Kai Coggin: Today, this. Because of al the unnecessary deaths of POC, especially black people, this. Because of the fear mongering that causes generational systems of people to become predator and prey, this: Allowables by Nikki Giovanni.

Q: If you could have dinner with a president, alive or dead, with whom would you dine?

Will Giles: Hilda Heine for sure. She is the first woman to be the president of any Micronesian country, served as Minister of Education, and is doing a lot of work on the forefront of climate change.

Kai Coggin: Honestly, I’d probably not ever want to have dinner with a President, except for maybe President Obama, because he’d be pretty chill, and we could just kick back a couple and maybe get a pizza. Or… perhaps dinner with Hillary, because there is no d*mn way I would ever recognize a misogynist fascist racist xenophobe like Trump. Hillary and I would sip on a couple of Moscow mules with muddled mint leaves, and I would ask her where she really stands on war, race, income inequality, the school to prison pipeline, standardized testing, Monsanto, drug companies, you know the basics… but mostly I would try to figure out her heart, whether it is the heart of a woman… whether her face lights up when she mentions her granddaughter. I would look into her eyes as the shared appetizer of spinach-artichoke dip comes to the table. I would see if she reaches first, if she takes the first bite.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Will Giles: Ahh! I’m having a tough time knowing where I will see myself tomorrow. Not sure geographically. But definitely a place where I can spend my time working with a nonprofit organization to create more spaces of youth empowerment through poetry and expression.

Kai Coggin: I see myself with a third collection floating around in the world, and with a steady flow of classrooms and universities calling on me to come give readings and host workshops. I see myself taking charge of the poetry scene in my community, and keeping it alive for many years to come. I see myself continuing to learn and grow and be inspired by the six-degree-separations-of-greatness that I see in all the poets on my newsfeed winning grants and huge honors, publishing, going viral with poems, touring the world, speaking, becoming EPIC examples of our shared Work. D*mn, there is so much greatness in this community, so much to strive for. Our generation of poets is putting in the energy, writing the necessary poems, breaking and building with our words.

I also see myself as a mother.

Q: Anything else (poems, videos, links, comments, etc)?

Will Giles: Here is the nonprofit I work with now: Pacific Tongues, my Facebook page, and a sad poem (my specialty).

Kai Coggin: Thank you for the chat! One of my personal favorite lit mags is Yellow Chair Review, and they are pretty much always open for submissions. They are super inclusive and badass.

Also, here is a link to my website where you can grab yourself a personalized signed copy of both of my books! I’d so appreciate it!

Next Week: Ryk McIntyre and Siaara Freeman

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