For more than fifteen years, Inprint has been proud to serve as host to First Friday. First Friday is the oldest poetry reading series in Houston, held on the first Friday of every month since 1975. The series is coordinated by Robert Clark and features a wide range of local and regional poets. Each evening begins at 8:30 pm with a reading by the featured poet, followed by an open mike. Clark and many involved in First Friday also help organize the annual Houston Poetry Fest, which takes place every October at the University of Houston Downtown.
On June 5, First Friday will feature Kenan Ince, a Houston writer to be reckoned with. A Dallas native, Kenan is currently a PhD student in Math at Rice University. Well-known in local writing circles, Kenan has given many readings around the city, was a juror at Houston Poetry Fest, and has been published in Word Riot, The Hartskill Review, and HeART Online.
Inprint blogger Sara Balabanlilar says she has encountered Kenan’s work in two very different Houston venues—the now defunct East Side Social Center (a beloved punk and DIY venue with the curated remains of Sedition Books’ collection) and Rice Gallery, in a night of poetry that responded to the current gallery installation. Both readings left an impression on Sara: “The audiences of the two spaces were entirely different, but Kenan handled both with ease. During both readings, Kenan drew listeners into a series of beautifully imagined thought experiments that rendered them silent. His poetry is activist, certainly, but also with an amount of nostalgia that offsets a sense of political cliche. His metaphors are beautiful, extended forays into experiences that are entirely different from our daily Houston lives.”
Sara sat down with Kenan recently to talk briefly about his vision of poetry, considering his perhaps unconventional roots.
Sara: Please tell us a bit about your writing process. I’m interested In your dual focus on math and creative writing; do you hold a similar sort of passion for both? Do you think of them entirely separately or ever in conjunction?
Kenan: I tend to write based on images that strike me, then I let my associative brain go to work during the writing process to make leaps between that image and other images or ideas. This is somewhat similar to the way I do math–I start out with a set of given information (previously proven theorems, for instance) and use a set of logical associative leaps to prove something new.
However, there’s a difference in that, with math, I often know what I want to prove before I start, whereas with poetry, I never want to know the ending of a poem until I write it. I want to surprise myself (and hopefully also my reader) with the associative leaps I’m making. I think mathematical proofs can be artistically interesting, too, especially when the logical leaps made within lead somewhere “surprising but inevitable,” to use a common poetry maxim.
I never want to know the ending of a poem until I write it.
Sara: What role do you think your writing has regarding your political vision/activism?
Kenan: My political philosophy is often changing, but for many years now has been centered around opposing political structures that support the inequality and oppression of various groups of people, largely through long-term community organizing and activism. This philosophy imbues every aspect of my life, including my poetry, where it’s often in the background of whatever imagistic and metaphorical connections are going on in my poem.
I hope that my writing allows myself, and those who read/hear my poetry, to explore these structures, and modes of resistance to these structures, without having a political agenda shoved down their throat. The goal of my poems is to succeed as poetry, whether or not there is a political message involved. (And in my opinion, no matter what one writes about, there is a political message involved.)
I hope that my writing allows myself, and those who read/hear my poetry, to explore these structures, and modes of resistance to these structures, without having a political agenda shoved down their throat.
Kenan Ince will be reading his poetry at the Inprint House this Friday, June 5, 8:30 pm at Inprint House, 1520 West Main, 77006. Click here for more information.
PLEASE NOTE: The Menil Collection has begun construction on its new Drawing Institute down the block from our office. Currently a crew is installing new water and sewer lines on our side of the street. Therefore, our block of West Main is one-way going East. To park, enter West Main from Mandell and proceed past the Inprint office to the small parking lot at the end of the block on the right. You may park in any open space in this lot. Should the lot be full, exit the lot to the south, cross Colquitt, and enter the next parking lot beside the west side of the Menil’s Richmond Hall. Thank you for your patience with this.