Wasafiri Wonders: Rachel Long
‘I think it be would be Whitney Houston does a grime inflected album, with special features from Rhianna, Stormzy, Skepta, David Bowie. Album artwork from either Tracey Emin or Carrie Mae Weems – maybe an artwork each side. And it would be a cassette, or CD at the most.’
Ever wondered what your favourite writer’s first drafts look like? Or which book they love that nobody’s heard of? Wasafiri Wonders is a series that asks these questions for you.
1. Describe your first drafts in one sentence.
The long way round.
2. Tell us about your writing rituals.
In my own house, in my most comfy clothes, alone. Very alone and ideally with nowhere to go and no one to see for days.
3. What themes do you gravitate towards and why?
I gravitate towards girlhood, growing up, my mother, religion, sex, shame, the body, ‘Blackness’ because they are the things that shaped me, therefore they shade all I do; inflect my behaviour, speech, relationships, work.
4. What’s the book you haven’t written yet, but want to be known for?
Ha! The classic about the girl who grew up into…
5. What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Make it new!
6. What is your favourite book or pamphlet published in the past year and why?
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo because it was the only thing I could read during a global pandemic. I couldn’t read a thing before it, for weeks and weeks. Then I picked it up from where it had been on my ‘to read’ shelf and … it was like coming home, but also like listening to and learning from the stories of twelve other womxn and how they’d struggled and coped and found. I sat two nights in a row, in my chair, laughing one page, sighing and crying the next.
7. What is a classic you recently read for the first time?
As above. It will be a classic.
8. What is a book or pamphlet you love that no one else has heard of?
I think those in the know already know, but Gboyega Odubanjo’s While I Yet Live is stunning. Odubanjo’s writing simmers then shocks.
9. If your newest work were a music album, what would it be and how would it sound?
Ha, great question! I think it be would be Whitney Houston does a grime inflected album, with special features from Rhianna, Stormzy, Skepta, and David Bowie. Album artwork from either Tracey Emin or Carrie Mae Weems—maybe an artwork each side. And it would be a cassette, or CD at the most.
10. Which books or authors are relevant reads in our political climate —or one you’d recommend to current world leaders?
Gboyega Odubanjo, While I Yet Live
Momtaza Mehri, Doing the Most with the Least
Richard Scott, Soho
Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other
Rachel Long is a poet and founder of Octavia – Poetry Collective for Womxn of Colour, which is housed at The Southbank Centre, in London. Rachel’s poetry and prose have been published widely, most recently in Mal, Granta and The Poetry Review. Her debut collection of poems, My Darling from the Lions, is published by Picador, in August 2020. Order your copy here.
Read ‘Stop Finding Dimensions to Silence: Selections from Octavia Poetry Collective’, reflections and new poems by Rachel Long, Ankita Saxena, Amaal Said and Momtaza Mehri in Wasafiri 105 — coming Spring 2021.
Photo Credit: Amaal Said