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Oct 1, 2015

Comprehensive Humanity: Kyle Dargan on Loss, Learning, and Language

by Elizabeth Hoover

In 2003 Kyle Dargan announced himself as a major young talent with his debut poetry collection, The Listening. Selected by Quincy Troupe for the Cave Canem poetry prize, this book showed off Dargan’s acrobatic skill with language: '“Sunlight, the language / of melanocytes. Diglossic / skin, chromatic kin. Come / together reluctant collage.”

The collection garnered national attention. In the New York Times, Eric Henry lauded Dargan for his “attractive, melodic line that no one would mistake for prose. ... It’s like a spoken shorthand, blending the creative elision of lyric poetry with the wit, brio and irony of black English and hip-hop slang.”

Honest Engine (2015) by Kyle Dargan

Now just over thirty years old, Dargan is entering a new phase in his writing marked by the publication of his fourth collection, Honest Engine. In this volume he grapples with loss; five people close to him died within two years of each other. He notes in the introduction: “My previous book … ended with the Rapture. This collection begins at a rupturing.” The Washington Independent Review of Books, noting that the book addresses the socio-political as well as the personal, applauds Dargan for it: “There are terrific lines in each poem, stirring from spiritual sources and sadness spawned from anger.”

A professor at American University, Dargan is dedicated to making poetry available and accessible to diverse audience and has partnered with the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities to produce poetry programming at the White House and Library of Congress. In addition he's worked with and supports a number of youth writing organizations, such as 826DC, Writopia Lab and the Young Writers Workshop. He is also the founder and editor of POST NO ILLS magazine. 

In this three-part interview conducted by The Fight & the Fiddle editor Elizabeth Hoover, Dargan discusses limits to poetry’s political efficacy, hip-hop’s influence on him, and how his poetry has changed as he enters his thirties.

The Poetry of Possibility | Dargan ruminates on how poetry can allow individuals to vocalize possibilities and give readers a comprehensive view of humanity. He discusses his new poetry that explores the theme of masculinity.

“Poets Are the Caretakers of Language” | Dargan describes his work’s relationship to hip-hop and how he gathers diverse sources of inspiration.

Being the Person Left | Dargan contextualizes his recent book, Honest Engine, in the trajectory of his life and career, and he explains how his writing style has changed to emphasize clarity and craft.