By Rhiana Chickering
After the Mission Creek literary magazine and small-press book fair, the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., hosted Mission Creek’s keynote reading featuring Jamila Woods, Hanif Abdurraqib, and Alissa Nutting.
“We are trying to find independent voices — they may be famous or may not be, but they do things their own way,” Mission Creek cofounder Andre Perry told the audience. “There may not be a space for them in the industry, but we want to create a space for independent literature.”
With her outgoing and humorous personality, Nutting prompted several laughs from the audience as she read from her most recent novel Made for Love.
Throughout its wonderfully absurd plot and its characters’ quirky anecdotes, Made for Love began the keynote reading on a lighthearted, hilarious note. Crowds adored Nutting’s delightful wit.
Abdurraqib, known for his cultural criticism, music writing, and poetry, read from a multitude of works, including his upcoming book They Don’t Dance No’ Mo’, which is forthcoming.
“[They Don’t Dance No’ Mo’] is a book of long-form work revolving around the history of black performance and the United States of America,” Abdurraqib said in an interview with The Daily Iowan. “[It’s] rooted in starting with dance and finding threads through sports, music, comedy, and even workplace performance.”
Even though Whitney Houston sang “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” she never danced in her performances — or was able to dance well for that matter. Abdurraqib pointed this out, prompting him to read an excerpt in which he wrote about Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and the performance history centered on the song.
Abdurraqib also read an excerpt from an extended version of his article “The Deep Consolation Of A Song About What It Would Feel Like To Die,” which includes quite intense topics while intricately tying Julien Baker’s music to anecdotes from his experience.
Since he wrote this piece, Abdurraqib learned to not worry about what he cannot control, admitting he has had struggles with panic attacks throughout his career. Fortunately, when writing the pieces he read at the event, he felt fine.
Throughout his portion of the reading, he impressed the audience with his language and depictions of several situations — some of them painful to speak about. He expanded on his tactics and his goals in an interview with The Daily Iowan.
“I try to wake up and read some poems every morning. That kind of gets me in the mind space of entering the world with a new set of language or culture or new thing I want to expand on,” he said. ”My hope is that I can keep finding things that challenge and excite me enough for me to believe them worthy of unraveling.”
Moving from Nutting’s humorous fiction and Abdurraqib’s striking nonfiction, Woods read from her elaborate collection of poetry.
“I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, which is where a lot of black people live — except for this island called Beverly, where [families of] Irish immigrants [live],” Woods told the audience before reading “beverly, huh,” and “Ghazal for White Hen Pantry.”
Woods incorporated humor into her poetry, especially in “Daddy Dozens,” where she pokes fun at her dad’s large forehead while leading into anecdotes of his long work hours.
Wrapping up the literature component of Mission Creek, the weekend’s keynote reading spotlighted some of literature’s most remarkable, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.