Foglifter Darlings : Foglifter Press Interview with Zak Salih

by Dec 29, 2020Interviews

As part of celebrating Foglifter’s recent Pushcart nominees, we interviewed the writers! Next up is Zak Salih, published in Volume 5 Issue 2!

 What piece of art—literary or otherwise—has uplifted you during this tumultuous year? 

 

Though I read Olivia Laing’s essay collection, Stormy Weather: Art in an Emergency, in November, I felt as if the book’s spirit had been with me since the beginning of the pandemic. These short pieces on ferocious (and ferociously political) artists like David Wojnarowicz, Maggie Nelson, Ali Smith, John Berger, and Derek Jarman read, to me, like a stirring call to arms.

 

What writing habits/rituals are close to your heart?

 

For better or worse, I find comfort in routine, so I treat writing like any other job. Every weekday morning, for two to three hours, I work exclusively on writing that doesn’t pay the bills but satisfies something inexplicable inside me. I allow myself weekends and holidays off—at least from the physical act of writing (I’m never not thinking about it). That distance is important, too.

 

Who (or what) guides your writing? 

 

In high school, I took a course in advanced composition taught by an English teacher I highly admired. The work that came out was saccharine, of course: the new family puppy, the magic of Christmas. Once, the teacher penciled in the margins, Never stop writing. I still think of those words, even after all this time, as a vote of confidence and a commandment to persevere.

 

What do you believe is the role of the poet/writer in this cultural climate? 

 

So many of the problems with this current cultural climate, I believe, stem from a profound lack of empathy for people outside of one’s immediate life and experience. I’d argue it’s the writer’s job to advocate for, and bring out in their work, the empathy that’s shamefully absent in so much political discourse. Writing, to me, is just as much an act of empathy as reading.

 

Beyond writing, how have you been finding joy or rest this year? Do you have a favorite quarantine activity? 

 

Simple things keep us sane in crisis. For me, simplicity was burning a candle while eating dinner, reading a book, watching a movie, scrolling endlessly through social media. Something about the light, the glass, the shadows. I marked the passing of time with scented wax: winter balsam, rose, linen, tobacco and vanilla, cinnamon, then back to winter balsam again.

 

What advice do you have for emerging writers?

 

With the caveat that I’m still emerging, my advice is to write, first and foremost, for oneself. There’s a danger to beholding one’s style and craft to the tastes and opinions of a readership you’ll never satisfy completely. This is especially true for queer writers. Concerns about marketability should always come last, especially if you want lasting pride in what you’ve written.

 

 


Zak Salih lives in Washington, DC. His writing has appeared in Crazyhorse, The Rumpus, The Millions, The Chattahoochee Review, The Florida Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and other publications. His debut novel, Let’s Get Back to the Party, is forthcoming in February 2021 by Algonquin Books. www.zaksalih.com

Review of kiss+release by Anthony DiPietro

     “honey, if i’m real / i been fuckin’ around,” writes Anthony DiPietro in his forthcoming collection, kiss + release, from Unsolicited Press. DiPietro’s debut is muscular, dynamic, and unafraid, mercilessly splicing together the queer joys of so-called meaningless...

Review of Missing Possibilities by Jaime Balboa

The first of these excellent stories gives the collection its name: Missing Possibilities and concerns a runaway teenage boy. The friend looking for him tells the events in flashback and it transpires that he has been assaulted by his step-father for being or acting...

Congo, seen from the heavens : A poetry chapbook by Cianga

Cianga is the third winner of the Start A Riot! Chapbook Prize: In response to rapid gentrification and displacement of QTBIPOC+ literary artists in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in celebration of these communities’ revolutionary history, Foglifter Press, RADAR...

Review of Phantom Advances by Mary Lynn Reed

The stories in Phantom Advances, out now from Split Lip Press by debut author Mary Lynn Reed, are often hard to take. They are filled with yearning—frequently to an uncomfortable degree, and in many cases, they do not have happy endings. But they are able to capture...

Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go by Cleo Qian Reviewed

     Cleo Qian’s Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go, set alternately in Japan, China, Korea and America, is reminiscent of a disco ball—no matter which way you turn it, it remains luminous, catching the light and sending shards of brilliance into the air. Forthcoming from Tin...

Submit to Foglifter

Foglifter submission is now closed, but we are still accepting Cover Art —and we are now a paid market!

Support Foglifter

Help us continue providing a platform for intersectional queer and trans writing. Donate today!

Follow foglifter
on twitter

Twitter feed is not available at the moment.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This