Monday, June 17, 2024

TBR: We Alive, Beloved by Frederick Joseph

TBR [to be read], a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books. 



We don’t expect an elevator pitch from a poet, but can you tell us about your work in 2-3 sentences?


I consider myself a storyteller above all else, weaving tales of resilience and hope from the heart of Yonkers to the shelves of the world. My words live across genres, from poetry's intimate embrace in “We Alive, Beloved” to the calls for justice and understanding in “Patriarchy Blues” and “The Black Friend.” Each sentence I write is meant to help us all become a bit freer, whether that’s in the body, mind, or soul.


Which poem/s did you most enjoy writing? Why? And, which poem/s gave you the most trouble, and why?



I most enjoyed writing many of the poems in “We Alive, Beloved” because each one allowed me to explore different facets of the Black experience and celebrate resilience, joy, and love. However, the poem that gave me the most trouble was “The Odyssey.” This poem is very personal, reflecting on a Black life from birth onward. It attempts to be speculative while also playing on some of the prose found in Homer's “Odyssey” and other epic poems. Balancing these elements and doing justice to such a profound subject made it a challenging piece to write.



Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.


The journey of bringing “We Alive, Beloved” to life has been filled with highs and lows. One of the lows is that, as I write this, the collection is delayed a week due to printing logistics. Additionally, getting more people to engage with poetry, especially those who are more familiar with my essays and fiction, has been a mountain to climb. Still, the joy of seeing my poetic expressions take shape and the anticipation of sharing these deeply personal pieces with the world.


What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?


As a writer, the advice I can offer is to embrace the power of your authentic voice. Write from the depths of your soul, unfiltered and unapologetic. Authenticity resonates; it has the power to move mountains and touch hearts. Don’t shy away from the raw, the real, and the vulnerable. Let your words reflect the truth of your experiences, the richness of your heritage, and the unique perspective only you can bring.


My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?


What surprised me, deeply and profoundly, was how much certain moments from my past still sit with me. Writing this book unearthed memories long buried, reminding me that our past is never truly behind us; it sits in the marrow of who we are and what we create.


What’s something about your book that you want readers to know?


I want readers to know that I cried after finishing most of the poems in the collection. Each verse is a reflection of our shared struggles, our triumphs, and the silent battles fought in the depths of our souls. Those tears weren’t just mine; they belong to the history, the present, and the future of a people who continue to rise.


Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book?


I love that question! This book is so tied to my grandmother that I would have to say the book reads best with a slice of sweet potato pie. Which was her specialty.











DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.