Rebecca Bishophall and Dwayne Lawson-Brown, poets and friends from the Washington, D.C. area, have collaborated on the forthcoming collection, Breaking the Blank, to be released November 1, 2022 by Day Eight. Breaking the Blank is a dialogue between poets—and a meditation on love, parenting, gentrification, money, and the literary life. In accessible free verse, haiku, sonnets, and other forms, the authors honor the African American experience and remind the reader of the marvelous in the everyday. Early response to the book includes:
“Breaking the Blank is a contemporary treasure.” — Sistah Joy, Poet Laureate of Prince George’s County, Maryland
“Crisp, riveting, and often tender meditations on love, parenting, and—to paraphrase the title of a National Public Radio program—This African American Life.” — Reuben Jackson, author of fingering the keys and Scattered Clouds: New & Selected Poems
“As the poets share stories of parenting, single life, love, and the struggles of living from paycheck to paycheck, their poems sing and dance on the page. We share moments from the tenderness of waking up to laughter, the grittiness of being covered in vomit, and the ways we question our skills as parents.” — Susan Scheid, author of After Enchantment
Rebecca Bishophall attended Trinity University graduating with a major in Communications in 2006. She has performed at Spit Dat open mic, and Afrocentric Book Expo and works in member services for a non profit organization. A loving mother who enjoys rainstorms, ramen and romcoms, she can be found writing, reading fiction novels, and singing along to soft rock.
Dwayne Lawson, aka the Crochet Kingpin, is co-host of Spit Dat, the longest running open mic in Washington, D.C. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., he has performed and hosted at Woolly Mammoth Theater, Keegan Theater, The Strathmore, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Spirits and Lyrics Manassas, and others, and in 2021 was voted Male Poet of The Year at the DMV Renaissance Awards.
Sarah Katz interviewed the authors by email to learn more about their book, and why they decided to write a book together.
Sarah Katz: How did you meet each other? How long have you known each other?
Dwayne-Lawson Brown: I met Rebecca in the late 1900s at a little school named Washington Math Science Technology Public Charter High School. We both were in Ms. Megibow’s poetry club. I came in with the massive binder of printed, poorly edited poetry I wrote the year prior. She came in with composition books of very neatly, well-written poetry. On that day, a friendly rivalry was born!
Rebecca Bishophall: What’s funny about this is I was so blown away by the fact Dwayne had typed up his poetry and put it in a binder. I don’t think I had typed one poem until I met him. During the poetry club, it was very much “how many poems did you write this week??” but definitely all in the spirit of growing as writers. At over 20 years, he is one of my oldest friends.
SK: Do you have any writing mentors? Who are they?
DLB: I’m blessed to know many of the people who have greatly informed my work, Rebecca Bishophall included. Kenneth Carroll, Drew Anderson, Jason Reynolds, Meilani Clay, Rasheed Copeland—each has breathed life into my work in different ways. Drew Anderson in particular is “Virgil” in my “Divine Comedy”—he ushered me into hosting, touring, and mentors me as a performer and creative being.
RB: Judine Slaughter (my mother…ask me about “The House of Dies Drear”), Nikki Giovanni, Eric Jerome Dickey, and Dwayne Lawson-Brown.
SK: Why did you want to write a book as a pair?
DLB: Rebecca is important. Period. Rebecca’s voice is one that needs to be read and heard. There are plenty of Black Moms who write poetry (including both of our moms) but it seems many don’t currently have platforms that speak to the fullness of their being. Rebecca’s work refuses to be sectioned off. Each piece is Black, Woman, mom, free, joyful, worried—her poetry is honest. As someone who’s hosted open mics for the last 20+ years, that honestly is what makes the work beautiful.
All of that is before taking into consideration the multitude of firsts Rebecca holds in my life. Rebecca is the first person I personally knew who had a book. Her first collection, No Sweat,released while we were still in high school. I was so deeply inspired (and maybe a little jealous). Our first Spit Dat DC feature was together 20 years ago. We are both December kids who have a history of sharing stages and pages. I was first published alongside Rebecca in 2000. We were both nominated for Larry Neal Awards in high school, etc. When approached with this publishing opportunity, I knew I only wanted to move forward if I could have my poetic peer with me.
RB: When Dwayne approached me with this opportunity, a lightbulb appeared. Why had we never thought of something like this before! The process definitely brought me back to those high school days; creating the book has been a trip down memory lane as far as writing with Dwayne. I would read something of his and think about which poem of mine could pair well with it. I would write something and send it to Dwayne and he would say “that’s definitely going in the book.” Having the chance to write a book with one of your biggest supporters has been an amazing journey so far, and I’m looking forward to where we’re headed.
Breaking the Blank is forthcoming November 1, 2022. For an advance copy of the book or to interview the authors please contact Admin <at> DayEight.org. To explore other books published by Day Eight, visit our online bookstore.