Poet Threa Almontaser graduated from NC State’s Department of English with a bachelor’s degree in 2016 and an MFA in creative writing in 2019. Her first manuscript, The Wild Fox of Yemen, was the winner of the prestigious 2020 Walt Whitman Award. We caught up with Almontaser to learn more about her writing rituals, favorite poems and time on campus.
What kind of poems are featured in The Wild Fox of Yemen?
The poems are love letters to the country and people of Yemen, a portrait of young Muslim womanhood in New York after 9/11, and a composed examination of what it means to carry in the body the echoes of what came before.
What are your writing rituals? Have they changed since the start of the pandemic?
My rituals have stayed the same, except since the start of Ramadan (holy month of fasting for Muslims), I’ve written more late at night when I’m most full and wide awake.
How have your NC State degrees impacted your career?
To be honest, not much. Writing is a pretty solitary thing, so since leaving the program, I sort of just took what I learned and tried to muster my own time and efforts into this freelancing career, which doesn’t really require a degree. I decided to get an MFA mostly for the community it would bring me, as again, writing is lonely work, especially for BIPOC authors living in the South.
What was your favorite class at NC State?
Sex and Death with Dorianne Laux!
Do you have a favorite poem?
I keep a document on my computer titled, “Anthology of favorite poems,” so I have way more than one! Recently though, I read Harryette Mullen’s “Sleeping with the Dictionary” and was blown away.
What advice would you give to a budding writer?
Allow your poems to change. Give yourself as a writer that kind of grace to know you’re also always capable of change in yourself and in your work, especially imagining more possibilities for yourself and where the work can go.
When do you read?
Usually in the evenings or right before bed. Pre-pandemic, it was during my long commute to school (almost an hour and a half one way).
When do you write?
I prefer writing right when I wake up. As a morning person, that’s when my brain has the most energy to really use my imagination.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Abdullah Al-Baradouni of course, then perhaps Gabriel García Márquez and Virgina Woolf.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently at work on a second poetry collection featuring a ton of ghazals, and a young adult series about Yonkers and dream magic and Muslim friendships.
This post was originally published in College of Humanities and Social Sciences.