Truth Thomas is a true triple threat—a poet, musician, and publisher—and for the past several years he has been an integral part of the Little Patuxent Review family, serving as both a guest editor and a member of the Board. If you’ve interacted with Truth, you’ve seen the sincerity and heart that he brings to everything he does. It is Truth’s voice that we turn to in moments when the rest of us are at a loss for words.
So when Truth shared last month that he would be stepping down from our Board, I knew his voice needed to appear on our blog one more time (for now). The entire LPR community is grateful for everything Truth has given to LPR and wish him the absolute best, but will miss him dearly!
Many thanks to Truth for answering these questions.
Q: I’ll start with a (potentially) softball question—what have you most enjoyed from your tenure at the Little Patuxent Review?
TT: Helping LPR to grow, in the company of many other people who love and know the power of art to edify the world, has been deeply fulfilling. It was a warm chapter in my life—a great blessing—to work with and be in the company of every member of the Board.
What are you most proud of?
Playing it safe—as a writer, or as a journal that features writers—will generally not produce great art. To that end, I pushed LPR to take risks, rather than to be a safety seeker. This is especially true as it pertains to my efforts to move the journal away from its largely “art for art’s sake” self-vision. To the extent I was successful along these lines during my tenure on the board, yes, I am happy about that.
In addition, I am very glad I was able to help LPR with the merchandising of gear, and digital marketing, about which, your presence bodes profoundly well for the journal’s future growth. It also brought me great joy to be able to introduce LPR to the greater scope of poet Alan King’s talent as a videographer. In time, all of these efforts, and others to come, will—hopefully—help to elevate its public profile.
What do you think is the value of publications such as LPR in today’s world of media inundation and online publishing?
While certainly the “world of media” is flooded with online publications, not all of them are high quality. Great writing—talent—always holds the potential to greatly stand out. More importantly, such literary art is equipped with the power to positively impact and transform lives. LPR carries that agency—and the call to action that it implies. As such, its value is virtually limitless.
Do you have a favorite piece from the latest issue?
Let me say this: more than any one piece from an issue, what I esteem is the defiant hope in hate-filled times that the Little Patuxent Review represents in the Mid-Atlantic Region—its honest expressions of love for all people. For that reason, the Summer 2019 issue of the journal—an issue that featured the poignant work of many writers from the LGBTQ community—is a recent favorite of mine. Its publication was brave and bold and needed.
You’re a well-recognized poet who has published several collections of poetry. What are the themes or poetic devices that you find yourself drawn to in your work?
Readers might not know that you’re also a musician. What’s the relationship between poetry and music to you? Are they separate art forms, or inextricably linked?
For me, all creativity comes from God—one source, although it is expressed through different genres—just like some people can play many instruments. Of course, there are differences in terms of the approach to the creation of poetry and the creation of music. Poets write alone. Musicians, quite often, collaborate in musical composition—and they play in bands. While there are a few poets who collaborate like such musical groups, this is more the exception than the rule. I am blessed to be a musician who is also a poet. Both genres feed my soul in ways that never leave me hungry.
As if that’s not enough, you also founded Cherry Castle Publishing, where you’re still the managing editor. Can you talk a bit about the genesis for the press and what you’d like to see for it in the future?
There are very few black-owned presses in the United States. This is the abnormal normality of the publishing landscape in America. As a result, many black writers (but not all) have to make thematic compromises in their work in order for their work to find favor from the so-called mainstream book publishers. Given that reality, if you are a writer of color and you want to tell your own authentic stories—stories that ring true culturally about twenty-first century “problems of the color line,” as W. E. B. Du Bois might put it, your struggle to become published may be monumental. After I was blessed to win the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry in 2013 (for Speak Water), I was determined to fracture this paradigm. That’s why I started Cherry Castle Publishing. We publish everyone—without censure—and for the future, I would like to see CCP expand along these lines—and inspire other black literary professionals to found their own presses.
Last but not least, what’s something your fellow LPR Board members may be surprised to learn about you?
Don Cornelius bought me my first car.
Truth Thomas is a singer-songwriter and poet, born in Knoxville, TN, who grew up in Washington, DC. He is the author of four collections of poetry: Speak Water (Cherry Castle Publishing, 2012), winner of the 2013 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Poetry; Bottle of Life (flipped Eye, 2010); A Day of Presence (flipped Eye, 2008); and Party of Black (flipped Eye/Mouthmark, 2006). Truth’s work has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His poems have appeared in more than 100 publications including: Callaloo, The Newtowner Magazine, New York Quarterly, The Emerson Review, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South (Cave Canem Anthology) and The 100 Best African American Poems (edited by Nikki Giovanni).