I'm pleased to welcome Amorak Huey to Michigander Monday!
Debbie: Amorak, please tell us a little about yourself.
Amorak: I was born in Kalamazoo but my family moved to Alabama when I was very small. I grew up on a small farm outside a small town outside Birmingham. Then, when I was 30, my wife and I moved back to Michigan when she took a job teaching writing at Grand Valley State University. I worked as an editor at The Grand Rapids Press for eight years, and during that time I commuted to Kalamazoo in the evenings and managed to complete an MFA at Western Michigan. Now I also teach writing at GVSU, and we live in East Grand Rapids with our two kids, who are heading into fifth and seventh grade this fall. It’s a pretty amazing life I’ve stumbled into.
Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your books.
Amorak: Ha Ha Ha Thump is a collection of poetry freshly released by Sundress Publications. There’s not a single narrative, but the poems coalesce around themes of love, intimacy, connection, persona, vulnerability. At least, I hope they do.
I also have a chapbook, The Insomniac Circus, which came out last fall from Hyacinth Girl Press. These are persona poems about circus performers.
Debbie: Other books or projects on the horizon?
Amorak: I have two new poetry manuscripts making the rounds at small presses and various book contests. Fingers crossed! One’s called Boom Box and the other is Seducing the Asparagus Queen.
Debbie: Upcoming appearances?
Amorak: I’m having a book launch on Sept. 9 at Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters in Grand Rapids, and beyond that I’m trying to set up some readings to promote Ha Ha Ha Thump, but nothing firm yet. If any of your readers want me to read for them, they should let me know!
Debbie: Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?
Amorak: My favorite library is my local one: the East Grand Rapids branch of Kent District Library. It’s within walking distance of my house, and it overlooks Reeds Lake, and my kids love going there, and the staff is amazing. I love libraries; they’re one of human society’s great innovations.
As for bookstore, I’d have to say the Schuler Books on 28th Street in Grand Rapids. Just walking in there makes me happy.
Debbie: How about a favorite place in Michigan?
Amorak: A blueberry patch in summer. An apple orchard in the fall. Anywhere on Lake Michigan when the sun is shining and the sand is hot and the water’s just barely warm enough to swim.
Debbie: Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?
Amorak: The annual fireworks over Reeds Lake on the Fourth of July. Again, walking distance from my house, and it makes me feel all small-town patriotic, which is not necessarily my usual state of mind.
Debbie: A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?
Amorak: There are so, so many great writers in Michigan. Everyone should know about L.S. Klatt, the Grand Rapids Poet Laureate. Everyone should know about W. Todd Kaneko and his book The Dead Wrestler Elegies. We should all be reading Jamaal May’s Hum, which is about Detroit. Tarfia Faizullah’s Seam is a treasure. Caitlin Horrocks’ This Is Not Your City is an amazing collection of short stories. Keith Taylor, Laura Kasischke, Nancy Eimers, William Olsen, Daneen Wardrop, Patricia Clark … I could go on and on here. I feel like I’m giving one of those Academy Award speeches where I’m leaving out some incredibly obvious and important people.
Debbie: That's a great list! Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?
Amorak: We have great produce, from cherries to blueberries to apples to asparagus. It’s a great state to eat your fruits and veggies in.
Debbie: Last question. Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?
Amorak: Oh, Michigander, and it’s not a close call. Does anyone really say Michiganian?
Debbie: Not me! But a few do. Or so I've been told. Amorak, thank you so much for being here today for Michigander Monday!