[EXCLUSIVE] “Q & A” by Miho Kinnas and E. Ethelbert Miller

Reflections on “Q & A”

E. Ethelbert Miller:

The title is actually what occurs in the poem. Often Miho and I will exchange lines and stanzas as we construct our poems. In this poem I felt it was more like a conversation between us and not just an exchange of words and lines. There are elements of fun and humour in the poem.

Why are we living in this Universe
and not the one across the street?

I don’t think I would have written the first two lines of “Q & A” if I wasn’t paying attention to the Artemis space launch as well as the space photos captured by the Webb telescope. Knowing Miho’s interest in space I thought it would be nice to explore this theme in one of our collaborations.

Miho Kinnas:

Because the street was flooded and
turned into the Milky Way.

I read Ethelbert’s first lines. We don’t live nearby. We met once in November 2021 and all correspondences between us are via electronics. The well-known Chinese legend of the man and woman living on the opposite sides of the Milky Way and they meet once a year came to my mind.

E. Ethelbert Miller:

When I wrote the poem I also had the music of Sun Ra in my head. I often repeat his words as if they were a mantra—”Space is the Place.”

The rings around my eyes
are from Saturn.

I wish my name was Uranus.

When I wrote “I wish my name was Uranus”, it directly addresses the importance of naming by African Americans. How we select our names or how the names are given to us during slavery. A name can determine an identity. To wish my name was Uranus is to desire to be mysterious or even be known as a magician (named Uranus). 

Miho Kinnas:

We talked about the act of naming several times over time. Our children’s names, place names and so on. In “Teach Me”, another poem we wrote about a week before “Q & A”, Ethelbert wrote “the name of the sounds.” Shortly after that I wrote a poem of my own extending the thought into a new form of an arranged haiku sequence. Cross pollinations occur for both of our individual works.

If we were exoplanets
our orbits might collide.

I recently read an article that the planets in the early stage of the solar system weren’t orbiting around the sun dependably as they are now. The researchers of exoplanets explain if the orbits cross, it leads to close encounters that deflect the planet’s path, due to gravity.

E. Ethelbert Miller:

Did you know less gravity
is desirable?

The last stanza of the poem (written by Miho) presents a nice degree of sensuality. True desire? The only thing holding it back is gravity.

Miho Kinnas:

I took “the rings around the eyes” to hint at ageing.  That led to the last line—less gravity, less sagging.

Header’s image is taken from Frederick J. Brown’s “Study # 437 Milky Way” (20 October 1977)

 

Q & A

by Miho Kinnas and E. Ethelbert Miller

Why are we living in this Universe
and not the one across the street?

Because the street was flooded and
turned into the Milky Way.

The rings around my eyes
are from Saturn.

I wish my name was Uranus.

If we were exoplanets
our orbits might collide.

Did you know less gravity
is desirable?

Miho Kinnas is a Japanese poet and translator. She is the author of two poetry collections, Today, Fish Only (2014) and Move Over, Bird (2019) published by Math Paper Press. Her poems, translations, book reviews and essays are published in various journals. She conducts poetry workshops, Poems of All Sizes, based on Japanese short forms at many on-and-off line locations working with writers and students of all ages while managing a community bookshop An Island Bookshelf at Hilton Head, South Carolina, USA, where she lives, swims and birds. She holds an MFA in creative writing (poetry) from the City University of Hong Kong.

E. Ethelbert Miller is a writer and literary activist. He is the author of two memoirs and several books of poetry including The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller, a comprehensive collection that represents over 40 years of his work. He hosts the WPFW morning radio show On the Margin with E. Ethelbert Miller and hosts and produces The Scholars on UDC-TV which received a 2020 Telly Award. Miller was awarded the 2019 Literary Award for poetry by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association for his book If God Invented Baseball. Most recently, he received a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and a congressional award from Congressman Jamie Raskin in recognition of his literary activism. Miller’s latest book is How I Found Love Behind the Catcher’s Mask, published by City Point Press.

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