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Alumna Kingsbury returns to share poems from her new book

Talia Kingsbury poses as La Puta de Guadalupe (virginus putrefactus kinetica) in Dramashop's production of "Ethnographic Museum of Irrelevant Races" (2000).
Talia Kingsbury poses as La Puta de Guadalupe (virginus putrefactus kinetica) in Dramashop's production of "Ethnographic Museum of Irrelevant Races" (2000).
Photo / Kevin Simmons

Talia Kingsbury is "the real thing: creative, capable, and [with] the fire within to devote herself to her creative talents," according to Ed Barrett, senior lecturer in writing.

Kingsbury, winner of a 2000 List Foundation Fellowship in the Arts for Students of Color, will bring her "fire" back to MIT, presenting "Down the Dirt Road," a reading of poetry from her new chapbook, "Origin/Destino," on Friday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. in Killian Hall. The reading is co-sponsored by the Office of the Arts and the Program in Women's Studies.

Published by Kings Crossing Publishers, the book includes poetry based on Kingsbury's personal experience as a "biracial multicultural queer."

Since graduating from MIT in 2001 with degrees in mechanical engineering and creative writing, Kingsbury has been working at Houghton Mifflin and performing with the Boston-based troupe, the Princesses of Porn with the Dukes of Dykedom. In February 2002, she won the Amazon Slam, a women's poetry slam regularly held on the last Sunday of every month at Ryle's in Cambridge.

Kingsbury worked with author Toni Amato through her List Fellowship. Amato has appeared as a guest speaker/performer at Brandeis, Temple and Goddard universities and received a Vermont Studio Center residency to work on a novel in progress, "Nobody Rides For Free." Amato's fiction has appeared in several anthologies, including "Food and Other Enemies," "GenderQueer" and "Strange Angels." He has also performed extensively in Boston and New York City and has received the 2000 LEF Fellowship and the 2001 Diana Korzenik Fellowship to the Boston Writer's Room.

Lynn Heinemann of the Office of the Arts talked to Kingsbury about her artistic endeavors.

Heinemann: Were the poems in "Origin/Destino" composed especially for this project?

Kingsbury: Most were written over the past 14 months, in workshops run by Toni Amato. A few were written while I was still attending MIT, but not necessarily for classes. Most likely I wrote them instead of paying attention in class.

What inspires you to write?

My writing comes out of love and all the ridiculous and beautiful things I have done to earn it and give it. And some of it comes from being a biracial queer poly Chicana writer/engineer looking for a tradition to follow, and deciding it would take less time to just be. Writing has become a way to really enjoy myself while labels remain firmly affixed, are replaced or are just peeled right off.

How did you connect with your List Fellowship mentor Toni Amato?

I first saw Toni read at an open mike [event] called GenderCrash. But before that, I'd seen others reading these amazing, intense pieces, prefaced with, "I wrote this piece in Toni Amato's workshop ?"

Then I saw Toni's notice in cafes and on e-mail lists. I had just graduated and was looking for things to do and figured it would be good for me. I think if I had realized how good it would be, I would have been damn scared.

Now I'm lucky enough to be getting to know Toni personally - as a fan and devoted follower. Toni creates this amazing space for us to discover and build. And I always think, how could I possibly reciprocate that kind of gift? It seems like the only thing to do is to use that space well.

How did the mentorship relationship work?

Toni was familiar with most of my work because it had been first created in workshop. Toni had an extremely respectful approach to critique and I felt I was able to make extensive edits while Toni rigorously helped maintain the integrity of each piece. It doesn't make sense for me to think of most of my poems as "finished pieces." They're all works in progress about my work-in-progress life. There's a comforting sense of possibility when nothing is labeled as "finished."

What have you been doing since graduation?

Besides working at Houghton Mifflin, I'm addicted to my routines: morning coffee at Panini, weekly lunches with friends, rehearsal with the Princesses of Porn with the Dukes of Dykedom. I'm still having too much of a crush on everything [in Boston] to want to move away. Also, as I've moved within the city three times in the past two years, I'm in no rush to see my life packed into neat stacks of equally sized brown boxes.

Where do the Princesses of Porn with the Dukes of Dykedom perform?

We do appearances as a troupe (and occasionally as individuals) several times a month, sometimes as part of larger drag shows or theater productions. We often do safer sex shows in conjunction with public health organizations. Our next full-length event is on Wednesday, Sept. 25, upstairs at Ryle's in Inman Square, and our web site.

Established in 1992 with support from the Albert A. List Foundation, the List Fellowship has annually awarded up to $5,000 to two MIT undergraduates to support their year-long pursuit of a project in the performing, visual or literary arts, including a mentorship program to work with established artists of color.

Due to funding constraints, only one award will be granted this year and next. "We hope that the program will be newly endowed," said Director of Special Programs Michele Oshima, who administers the program for the Office of the Arts, in collaboration with the faculty and with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Fellowships are open to sophomores and juniors of color who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The next application deadline is Jan. 27.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 11, 2002.

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