Getting to Know Tatiana Johnson-Boria

When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover that you wanted to write poems?

I know I must have encountered poetry earlier than high school but the moment that sticks with me the most was in a high school AP English Language & Composition class. Our teacher brought the Poetry Out Loud program to our class and made it part of our grade to participate. We were asked to choose a poem from a database and perform it. The whole thing made me anxious. I chose a poem by Nikki Giovanni called “Beautiful Black Men” and it was the first
time I read a poem about a Black person written by a Black person. It felt like I stumbled upon something so special and transformative. Reading and reciting this poem made me ask myself: Can I write a poem? And it’s been this question that has guided me to continue to write.

Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?

I used to have a writing routine of writing in the mornings on the weekends around day jobs etc. Yet since becoming a parent this routine looks different depending on the week or day. Sometimes I write a sentence or line while I’m on the train in my iPhone notes app. Sometimes I write something in the margins of a book I’m reading before bed. Sometimes I do get an hour or so over the weekend to write as much as I can. Other times my family watches the baby while I go to the library and write as much as I can. Sometimes writing is just me thinking while doing
other things. Let’s just call it an ever evolving routine.

Where do your poems most often “come from”—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?

My poems can come from many places, but usually they come from an obsession or obsessions. For so long I’ve been wondering about mothering and generational healing so that’s something I’ve been continually returning to at different states of my life. Lately, I’ve been thinking about birthing and birth, mostly because it’s one of the most transformative experiences I’ve had lately. So perhaps it’s just what feels the most present in my life at the moment.

Which writers (living or dead) have influenced you the most?

Lucille Clifton, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Jesmyn Ward, Warsan Shire, Kamilah Aisha Moon, Saidiya Hartman, and so many others have been incredibly influential to me. They all have this magical quality to their writing that makes me see what’s possible with the written word.

What excites you most about your new collection? (Significance of the title? Overarching themes? Process/experience of assembling it?)

My most recent collection NOCTURNE IN JOY culminates so much experimentation into forms of poetry that have helped me convey what healing looks and feels like. I have been loving erasures, sonnets, pantoums, and more experimental forms for the ways they can contain, restrict, revolve, and more. Healing often feels this way and so this collection truly culminates my foray into writing healing.

Tatiana Johnson-Boria (she/her) is the author of Nocturne in Joy (2023). She’s an educator, artist, and facilitator who uses her writing practice to dismantle racism, reckon with trauma, and to cultivate healing. She’s an award-winning writer who’s received distinguished fellowships from Tin House, The Massachusetts Cultural Council, The MacDowell Residency, and others. Tatiana completed her MFA in Creative Writing at Emerson College and teaches at Emerson College, GrubStreet, and others. Find her work in or forthcoming at The Academy of American Poets, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, among others. She’s represented by Lauren Scovel at Laura Gross Literary.