Books·My Life in Books

4 books that 21 Black Futures playwright and poet K.P. Dennis loved reading

The B.C.-based poet and writer of Cavities shares the books she's loved reading. 21 Black Futures is now streaming on CBC Gem.

21 Black Futures now streaming on CBC Gem

B.C.-based K.P Dennis is a Black non-binary artist and poet. (K.P. Dennis, CBC Arts)

K.P Dennis is a Black non-binary, multidisciplinary artist, poet, director and activist based in Vancouver.

The 21 Black Futures production Cavities was written by K.P. Dennis, directed by Mumbi Tindyebwa-Otu and performed by Alison Sealy-Smith (pictured). (CBC)

Dennis is a contributor to 21 Black Futures, a new anthology series featuring 63 Black Canadian playwrights, directors and performers addressing the question, "What is the future of Blackness?"

Presented by CBC Arts in partnership with Obsidian Theatre Company, 21 Black Futures premiered on CBC Gem on Feb. 12. Subsequent episodes will be released on Feb. 19 and Feb. 26.

Dennis's contribution to the 21 Black Futures anthology series is titled Cavities. Written by Dennis, directed by Mumbi Tindyebwa-Otu and performed by Alison Sealy-Smith, Cavities is a monodrama that looks at a future that is set the moment after the revolution takes place — examining expectations and the "what happens next?" that follows.

Dennis talked to CBC Books about four books they loved reading.

Octavia's Brood, edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha 

Octavia's Brood is an anthology of science fiction stories rooted in social justice movements. (AK Press)
 

"When Walidah Imarisha wrote, 'And for those of us from communities with collective historic trauma, we must understand that each of us is already science fiction walking,' my understanding of what science fiction, or visionary fiction, as Imarisha calls it, changed.

Octavia's Brood opened a whole new world to me — and I will always be grateful.

"I realized that my work, my life, which white university had not been able to categorize nor understand, was visionary fiction in motion. It is afro-surrealism, poetry and expressions of futures born from this Black, queer body, spirit and ancestors. 

"Octavia's Brood opened a whole new world to me — and I will always be grateful."

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates is an American author and journalist. (One World, Gregory Halpern)

"Every Black reader has that book. That first book that showed up in all its truth, sorrow and love, to make you feel seen in ways you didn't know was possible in literature. Trayvon Martin's murder, and the subsequent release of his killer, showed me the full horrors of the political landscape for the Black person in America when I was 15 years old. 

Every Black reader has that book. That first book that showed up in all its truth, sorrow and love, to make you feel seen in ways you didn't know was possible in literature.

"Between the World and Me validated the bleak and undulating rage that had been lit in me (as spoken from father to son) and showed me the beauty of telling our own stories with vulnerability, conviction and emotion."

Don't Call Us Dead by Danez Smith

Danez Smith is a Black, queer, non-binary, HIV-positive writer and performer from Minnesota. (Graywolf Press, Tabia Yapp)

"Quite simply the most stunning poetry book I have ever read. A must read. You will cry."

for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange

Ntozake Shange was an American playwright, Black feminist and poet. (Scribner, Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

"This is the first piece of poetic theatre I read by a Black artist. It influenced my style immensely. I don't think I fully understood it the first time I read it in high school, but I knew I loved poetry, I loved theatre and I hated Shakespeare. 

It was liberating to see a poetic story told about Black women, by a Black woman, using dance, music and poetry to share their lives, in a full-bodied, emotional way.

"It was liberating to see a poetic story told about Black women, by a Black woman, using dance, music and poetry to share their lives, in a full-bodied, emotional way. Because of this play, I have never hesitated to infuse these elements into my work, nor be bound by realism and the box of white expectation."

K.P. Dennis's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Watch the trailer for 21 Black Futures 

21 Black Futures trailer

2 months ago
1:44
Presented by Obsidian Theatre and CBC Arts, 21 Black Futures premieres Friday, February 12 on CBC Gem. 1:44

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