Five Quick Questions with Leila Chatti

Poetry at Literati presents…

Welcome to Five Quick Questions, The Ribbon’s ongoing mini-interview project. We’ll send the same five questions to authors on their book tours, in advance of their readings at our store. Leila Chatti reads with poet Tracey Knapp at Literati on Tuesday, September 20 at 7pm.


Q: What are you reading now? What books will you be taking with you on tour (other than your own)?

I just finished Keetje Kuiper’s Beautiful in the Mouth and began Laura Kasischke’s The Infinitesimals. I’ve been traveling pretty much nonstop for the past year, so I switch books out whenever I’m home for a day or two and keep a lot of e-books on my computer (not preferable, but what can you do). I am currently lugging around two of Anne Carson’s books, Gregory Pardlo’s Digest, Aracelis Girmay’s Kingdom Animalia, Jan Beatty’s The Switching Yard, and a couple nonfiction books for research. Also, as massive as it is, I always travel with Louise Glück’s collected poems. I’m a little paranoid about it, actually — I keep it in my carry-on because then I know I’ll have it, even if my luggage gets lost. I like it that much.

Q: Which section are you most likely to be caught browsing in at Literati?

Poetry! Then lurking in the memoirs and personal essays (and also eying the notebooks).

Q: If we could conjure up any writer, living or dead, to join you in conversation after the reading, who would it be? And what would you ask them?

This is an incredibly difficult question. For the sake of making things interesting, I wouldn’t invite someone I know personally. I think I’d invite Ross Gay. His book Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude is one of my favorites; I find it so refreshing, with its breathlessness and hands-in-the-dirt. I’d like to ask him about joy and grief in poetry — how they operate together, the challenges in writing about them.

Q: Is there a reading, anecdote, or piece of writing advice that’s stuck with you from any literary (or other) event you’ve attended?

During a panel at AWP this year, Rachel Eliza Griffiths asked “What are you pretending you don’t know?” I’ve been mulling it over ever since.

Q: Literati’s Book Ninjas never waste time online — we’re too busy reading! — but since we’re here: what article or website have you lately found worth wasting time on?

Divedapper! My friend, Kaveh Akbar, runs it; it’s a series of the most thoughtful and interesting interviews with so many important voices in contemporary poetry. I highly recommend it.