I am a writer and visual artist based in Chicago. I work in poetry, prose, essay, and fiction, and my books usually include images. I got my start as a writer in New York City, and the dedication of the experimental writing communities there made me a literary citizen for life and inspired me to start my own chapbook press called Sona Books. Now, in my new city, I am thrilled by the presence of so many grassroots arts organizations and by Chicago’s accessible excellence in art and literature.
For several years I was an academic advisor in a worker education program, and I got my start in teaching and writing at a community-based literacy program in Brooklyn where we, as teachers, believed that “to teach it you have to do it.” My interest in writing came from my involvement in that community of teachers and learners intent on writing down their stories.
I enjoy encouraging learners to access alternative sense-making spaces within language—spaces outside of traditional logic, explanation, and linearity. This idea of language probably comes from one of my first language memories of listening to my loved ones carry on in their home language, Estonian, and though nothing was translated for me, I loved hearing their sounds and being a witness to that intimate encounter created by language itself. So I delight in those workshop and classroom moments when we encounter a combination of words that puzzles all of us, but also makes more sense than we could have ever imagined. My approach to facilitating writing is to encourage experimentation and to fashion a space that is both challenging and supportive.
In the early '90s I first read Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and knew that I wanted to teach. I respect and cherish the community that is created when learners gather—it’s invigorating and inspires me continually. My creative and intellectual interests hover around hybrid texts—works that blur boundaries between fiction, poetry, the essay, visual poetry, and image; the politics of inscription and traditions of resistance to inscription; social memory and landscaped sites of memory; critical race theory and African-American literature; documentary art practices; eco-poetical concerns and the North American nature writing tradition; working people’s art expressions; gender and writing; and postcolonial theory.
Though I do not have advanced degrees in the visual arts and social sciences, I’ve taken graduate-level anthropology and sociology courses at the New School for Social Research, as well as drawing, painting, and sculpture classes at School of the Visual Arts and The City College.