Publication Anniversary: A Conversation with Smokii Sumac
Just one year ago, Smokii Sumac launched his debut poetry collection, you are enough: love poems for the end of the world, and it’s been quite an amazing year! Smokii has done numerous readings and author events, and the book has had a wonderful reception. In June, it won the Indigenous Voices Award in Published Poetry in English!
On the anniversary of his book launch in Invermere, BC, we thought we would get in touch with Smokii and ask how things are going for him and his writing now!
Kegedonce Press: What are you doing now? Are you still writing poetry?
Smokii Sumac: I am now grateful to have accepted a teaching position at College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, BC as the Indigenous Studies Instructor here! While I did take a bit of a break from writing when the book came out, I am grateful to say that I am getting back into the practice and feeling the call of poetry lately, and I've even recently applied to a summer residency to work on a new collection! (Please keep your fingers crossed for me, as I will hear back sometime this month.)
KP: What has changed for you, with regards to poetry and writing, since publishing you are enough?
SS: Honestly, it still sometimes almost doesn't feel real that I have a book in the world. I think the one major change I've noticed is the reach of my work. I received an email from someone who had found my book in Springfield, Illinois, and I have folks who have taken pictures of my book as it travelled with them to places like Iceland and the Bahamas! And the other day, I was going into a yoga class and noticed a woman sort of staring at me. When I met her eyes she said something along the lines of "I'm sorry, but I follow you on Instagram and have your book and I'm such a fan! I'm kind of star struck right now!" These are things I could never have imagined, and I'm still surprised every time they happen.
KP: What role does your poetry play for you, either in your life or out there in the world (or both)?
SS: I recently posted a new poem online and a reader (who is also a poet) commented that they wanted to print it out and carry it with them. "You've gifted a full moment here...This is what poetry is supposed to do, I think." This comment meant a lot to me, because I understood it. I think that poetry allows us to stop and consider the world for a second. Some poetry allows us to consider language. Some allows us to consider a new perspective. Some connects us to a universal feeling that perhaps we didn't have words for before. For me, I am always looking for poems that make me feel seen. That is what I hope my work does for people. The few times that readers or audience members have shared what my work has given them, that is what poetry can do. It can save a life. It can change a life. It can create a life.
KP: What is the most surprising or enlightening thing you’ve learned through your process of writing poetry?
SS: Maybe that practice works? This is kind of the only thing I can think of. When I started this process I was writing a poem a day and posting it to social media. It was a fun thing, at first; it was a way to get myself writing. And then, at some point I found myself with two years of work. Work that I was able to curate into my first collection. I know it's a cliché now to say "Practice makes perfect," and if I'm honest, I'm never aiming for perfection (I would have never published anything if I was trying to make it perfect! Some poems feels like they'll never be finished!), but I do recognize that when you make something a practice; when you are practicing poetry for example, well, that is when I think you can call yourself a poet. Or, at least, that's when I know I am a poet: when I am in the midst of writing a poem.
SS: Thank you to everyone who has supported you are enough: love poems for the end of the world. It has been a beautiful year, and I am honoured and excited to continue writing work that I hope will help you feel seen for many years to come.
You can find more information about you are enough: love poems for the end of the world here, where you can also order a copy!
And check out these great reviews and articles about Smokii’s book!