Interviewing Ifeanyi Menkiti on is like calling God, or at least getting James Earl Jones complete with Vader helmet on the phone: Exhilarating, frightening, and enlightening.
Here’s a snippet.
“There’s something that I think happens with poetry where it kind of brings us home to things that are important,” says Menkiti. “There’s the mood that it sets, the observations on life or running commentary on individual and collective lives. It differs–there are so many different kinds of poetry but I think it tends to bring the spirit back home…read more.”
There’s something about a phone interview that makes it more intimidating than the in-person kind. Perhaps it’s that on the phone, voice is everything–there’s no body language to soften the words, no smile to give a clue as to tone. As prep work, I usually read everything I can about a person, and listen to any recordings online so I’m not overwhelmed by an unusual voice or accent, especially if the person I’m speaking to is from the South or Midwest (I don’t have much experience with those accents, and sometimes have trouble making out words.) Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a recording of Mr. Menkiti, so all I had to go on was memory–I saw him at a reading in Porter Square a few years ago–and his books (I have two). Memory, though, can be tricky, especially when the person you recall is somehow erudite, larger than life, and Darth Vader all rolled into one.Read More