Sheila Black is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Radium Dream, and co-editor of Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. The co-founder of Zoeglossia, a non-profit to build community for poets with disabilities, she currently serves as the organization’s part-time executive director. Our November poetry curator for the Poetry Curator Series, Black sat down in the green room to chat with us about gardening, tacos in San Antonio, and her dreams of flying.
Who are a few poets that have been on your mind recently?
I’ve been really obsessed right now with my friends who are poets, like Connie Voisine [ed note: Zócalo’s poetry editor], Melissa Kwasny, Jennifer Bartlett... But there are so many poets I think about, like Audre Lorde and June Jordan who gave maps to women to think about their lives in different ways.
How has the pandemic affected how you think about or write poetry?
With the loss, grief, and difficulty, it has made poetry feel urgent again. It’s one of the few things that is genuinely consolatory. Oddly enough, I think poetry does that because it’s very merciless. It’s a space for people to feel the mercilessness that other people have felt, which consoles us, I think.
Where would we find you at 10 on a Saturday morning?
We had such a global-warming summer in Texas that I became a gardener. Not because I’m good at it—I’m the worst—but because everything was brown and dying. I have a little scurvy lawn with patches of flowers. So, I’d be out watering my lawn before it got really hot.
The year 2023 is almost upon us. Do you have any New Year’s resolutions yet?
I read this great trilogy by Deborah Levy. One thing she realizes is that she’s never really learned to take up space and figure out what she wants to do in life. So, my resolution is to take up more space. As women, we’re so trained to worry about how everybody’s doing. So, I’m trying not to worry about it and take up space.
What’s one food you find irresistible?
Any kind of noodles! There are two noodles that I love making to the point where my family is like, oh, gosh. One is spaghetti with raw sauce like the Italian one where you make it with raw tomato and basil and other things and you toss it. The other kind is peanut noodles, which I have a really good recipe for. Noodles are probably my comfort food.
What surprises you most about your life right now?
To be as old as I am and know so little to the point where I don’t even feel that old. In my 40s and 50s, I felt like I was really an adult, and I knew what was going on, and I was in control. But getting older, in some way, you pass through an adolescent feeling where you’re questioning everything again. I don’t think it’s a negative thing.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
I’ve always been mobility impaired, so, flying. I sort of know what it’s like from swimming, but I’ve always dreamed of flying.
Your home is in San Antonio—what’s one thing you’d recommend visitors do there?
Listening to music and getting tacos! Really, you can get tacos any time of the day. I’d recommend getting breakfast tacos at Mama’s Kitchen in West Hildebrand. And later in the day, tacos at Carnitas Lonja. I’d recommend also going to the ice houses to hear music or poetry.
Do you have a favorite holiday?
It’s evenly divided between Halloween and Thanksgiving. Halloween because of the dress-up and parties. And it has ancient roots for the Celtic. It’s also around the same time as Día de los Muertos, which, living in San Antonio, is a holiday I really love too. Thanksgiving because, unlike Christmas, the pressure [of presents] is off, and for better or worse, family comes together.