the monumental misrememberings, by mimi tempestt.
Mimi Tempestt (she/they) is a multidisciplinary artist, poet, and daughter of California. She has a MA in Literature from Mills College, and is currently a doctoral student in the Creative/Critical PhD in Literature at UC Santa Cruz. Her debut collection of poems, the monumental misrememberings, is published with Co-Conspirator Press (2020). She was chosen for Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices for poetry in 2021, and is currently a creative fellow at The Ruby in San Francisco. Her works can be found in Foglifter, Chaparral Press, Interim Poetics, and Honey Literary.
Poetry Editor Michal “MJ” Jones discussed the monumental misrememberings with poet, writer, and artist Mimi Tempestt.
This book begins with a question – where did all the Black girls go? – What led you to answer this question? What haunts you about this question and its answers?
The question is definitely haunting, and it’s one that came out of a series of conversations with some of my closest friends: a group of Black femmes, who seemed to be trading horror stories about things they read or heard or even experienced. So that question was formulated from those interactions. But the question in the book, for me, feels more like a mirror. We know where all the Black girls went and are going, we just don’t want to admit that to ourselves, because it’s easier to forget.
Can you share about the journey of creating this book – compiling all of its poems, visuals, diagrams, etc. How did you pull together your different artistic creation processes for this final product?
I didn’t intend to write this book (at first). The book chose to write itself through me. The names, stories, and faces of most of the Black women and girls came from a heavily researched archive that I created for over a year. I would collect articles, pictures, urban legends/oral histories, essays, statistics, etc. And from there, their voices began to trickle through me, in addition to my own stories and histories. I was heavily influenced by Giovanni Singleton’s american letters, and I had the privilege of working with Truong Tran, who encouraged my failures and successes in creating my own process, and it all came through in this body of work. I also believe visuals, diagrams, symbols, and memes have a way of facilitating variant meanings that aren’t readily available to readers. I like my readers to dance a bit when engaging with my work. I enjoy abstract thinking and conceptual contemporary art (It’s a form that I wish to grow within and master), and tried to work that in with this project.
There is so much in this work about naming/renaming, erasure, and claiming of Black girlhood and womanhood. What are you naming yourself? What narratives that you have been told about yourself are you re-writing?
That’s a good question. I’m turning 30 in 4 months, so that question has been coming up for me a lot lately. This is going to sound wild, I anticipate that some readers will tsk at this answer, but at my core, I am god. I’m one of many many many expressions of this universe. I’m also Mimi Tempestt, who I have always said is a concept: An experiment, a performance. I’m a Black daughter. I’m a big sister. I’m a friend. A lover. An artist. A writer. A teacher. A student.
I’m a dope ass Black woman.
But at the end of the day, I’m just Mia. I spend most of my time by myself, figuring out ways to express my love for living, out loud.
What do you find yourself “working on” during these times? (This can be interpreted widely – what you’re working on artistically, spiritually, etc.)
The tentative title of my current working project is:
a series of untitled poems on metapoetics in nigga theory
(on white voyeurism and the luxury of writing about not a damn thing)
(how to pick up the pen when you know a nigga prolly-likely got shot by a pig today)
(this ain’t a collection of poems, i’m just spitting my mind’s fuck down the river of god).
The readers of this interview can do with that title what they will.
Thank you to Mimi Tempestt! You can order the monumental misremembering here.
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