Tell Me Something: Asia Calcagno finds her way, with words

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Chicago native and two-time Louder Than a Bomb finals contestant Asia Calcagno is a poet, performer, activist and educator. In recent years, Calcagno’s work has been published in Glass Mountain, Youth Voice Nation and Women in Redzine and her poems earned her the Benjamin T. Marshall Poetry Prize, the Charles B. Palmer Poetry Prize and the Hemingway Award. She has read poems on on Vocalo and Guess Radio. While a student at Connecticut College, Calcagno ran RefleXion, a campus poetry/spoken word group. Recently, Calcagno started youth poetry education programs at non-profits and after-school programs in both New London and Chicago. She has graced the stages of Brave New Voices, The Black Women’s Exposition, the Taste of Chicago and traveled abroad to perform at venues such as Queen Elizabeth Hall, Shake the Dust and Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London. Calcagno’s debut chapbook is titled "Where We Take Our Guns" and she plans to release her second one this year.

Say you have a modern-day high school locker. Whose picture would be hanging in it?

My dog.

What's your favorite sandwich?

Grilled cheese with mushroom and tomato.

You're locked in a museum for a night, which one would it be?

The Brooklyn Museum. I’m not finished exploring.

What’s your favorite word in a language other than English?


What’s a poem you like, but can’t convince others to like?

I couldn’t convince some of my former students to like “Good Times” by Lucille Clifton. Oh well.

Who played at your first live concert?

Mos Def.

Sorry to have to tell you this, but an asteroid is going to wipe out all humanity next week. So, what’s your last meal and who is coming to dinner?

Spaghetti and marinara sauce with a side of breaded mushrooms. I would invite all of my friends and close family.

If you could write the biography of any poet, who would it be?

Yusef Komunyakaa. Hands down.

Other than your smartphone, name an item you can’t live without:

My laptop.

Item you should live without and keep meaning to get rid of:

This horrible bottle of sparkly nail polish.

You’re a DJ at club. What’s the night’s last song?

“What’s Love Got to Do With It” by Tina Turner.

What’s the last televison show you binge-watched?

“Breaking Bad,” of course.

What poem have you read more than any other?

“Dreams” by Langston Hughes.

If you present day you could give advice to younger you, what would it be?

Being weird is actually cool. Weird will pay off.

Last book you couldn’t put down:

“Loose Woman” by Sandra Cisneros.

If you had to write in poetic form (not free verse) which one would it be?


[Ekphrasis is when a work of art in one medium is inspired by, comments, explains or otherwise enlarges on an artistic work in another medium. A poem about a photograph, for example, or a painting of a sculpture. The practice dates to ancient Greece.]

What’s a word you can never spell correctly on the first try:


Which movie, television show or theatrical production most accurately depicts life as a Connecticut College student?

“The Breakfast Club”

Coffee or tea?

I’m a tea addict! 

Saturday night or Sunday morning?

Sunday morning.

Iambic pentameter or the modern pentathlon?

Iambic pentameter.

Anagrams or palindromes?

I love anagrams!

What is your pet peeve?

People who incorrectly use the words your/you’re and there/their/they’re.

What historical event would you like to have witnessed?

The March on Washington.

What is your favorite place in Connecticut to recharge and/or find serenity?

Bean and Leaf [in downtown] New London.

Name the person alive you most admire:

My mom.


You can see some powerful examples of Calcagno's work here:

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