36 Books Blog: Chaun Webster

Each day leading up to the 2019 Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony, we’ll be featuring an exclusive interview with one of our 36 finalists. Learn more about these incredible local writers and gear up to see the winners announced live in person April 6.

Interview with Chaun Webster, author of GeNtry!fication: or the scene of the crime

Category: Poetry, sponsored by Wellington Management, Inc.

How does if feel to be a Minnesota Book Award finalist?

I feel humbled to have been named a finalist among such an incredible group of writers.  I wrote a thing hoping a few folk would read, reckon, and talk back with it, and this distinction has been an unexpected happening along the road.

Tell us something about your finalist book that you want readers to know.

I want readers to know the big “small place” I call home.  That that big “small place” like so many other geographies marked in the white racial imagination as black space, are and have always been so much more than the slight workings of the white racial imagination.  I’d like readers to know that memory is a contended thing, and that even under the assault of erasure, some of us will always remain, and remember.

Let us know a little bit about your writing life. What brought you to a writing career and how did you become a published author?

I don’t know that I would frame my writing life as a writing career.  It is definitely labor, but like many, that labor is often unremunerated, and livelihood is pieced together through a hodgepodge of things outside the act of writing.  I came to writing through a practice of curious reading, questioning, devouring of notes sections and bibliographies and then following the breadcrumbs.  It has served me well thus far.

Minnesota is often ranked highly as a state that values literature and reading. In your experience, what is it about our state that makes it such a welcoming place for writers and book creators?

Minnesota certainly identifies strongly with valuing literature, and to some degree this is true as it is with health care and housing and education until you look at the disparities.  I’d be remiss and dishonest if I didn’t say that Minnesota, much like the world of publishing and distributing, and marketing and bookselling, has a long long way to go in terms of valuing the immense and diverse talent residing here.

What is something you are good at that few people know about?

I’m a decent cook.  I love the act and art of making in the kitchen.

What do you love about libraries?

I love the possibility, possibility of encounter with the unknown.  I love that libraries exist in a space outside of home and work and that we are not reduced to having to pay in order to be present there.  I think that gives libraries a radical kind of potential, a potential I hope is more and more realized.

About Chaun Webster
Chaun Webster is a poet and sound artist whose work uses a materialist temporality through a textual critic of linearity, while also interrogating memory, the afterlives of slavery, and black spatiality.  Webster’s debut book, GeNtry!fication: or the scene of the crime, was published by Noemi Press April 2018.