Arts, Boston culture, mignon ariel king, Poetry


Photo: Jack Scully
Interviewed by: Doug Holder

Mignon Ariel King is a dyed-in-the wool Boston poet. In her introduction to her new collection of poetry “The Woods Have Words,” she invites the reader to:”…stroll along the Charles River… walk through the streets of Boston,…or zip under and over the state of Massachusetts on the country’s oldest subway.” King was born some 40 odd years ago in the bosom of Boston City Hospital. She grew up in Roxbury,later earned a couple of advanced degrees, and was an adjunct professor of English at several local colleges.
She describes herself as a woman who is happily single, bookish, urban, multicultural, nocturnal; a complex woman of refined sensibilities, but she can just as easily down a few beers, and yelp for the home team.  King said she was introduced to poetry as a young kid when she was given a “fat” anthology of children’s poetry edited by Helen Ferris. She read it cover to cover, and soon started to write her own poetry. And finally, after all these years, she has penned her own poetry collection.  King said that poetry is her favorite medium because she said: “ I can’t write fiction.” King lists some of her favorite poets and writers as: Toni Morrison and Sandra Cisneros, to name a few.

“The Woods Have Words” is of course set in Boston—a place that King will always consider home. She can’t imagine a city without a river, and Boston has the Charles, and as the song goes: “She loves that muddy water.”  Interestingly enough King said she views Boston as a character in her book. She explores the different sections of Boston, many of them which she has lived in and worked in. “They all become part of you,” she reflected.

And this denizen of the asphalt, this walker in the city, considers herself a nature poet as well! She laughed: “ Skyscrapers are as natural as trees to me.”  King is no wallflower at the party, a weeping willow in the woods. She said her poetry is the poetry of a strong woman – a message that is clearly evident in her work. King doesn’t want to be know[n] as an “African-American” poet. She won’t be typecaste by biology, she insisted. She simply wants to be known as a writer with a capital W. She identifies with no school of poetry. She says simply and firmly that her work is multicultural. 

King said she finds a lot of women writers write about their kids and gardening—a subject matter she see[s] too much among her peers. She lists Sharon Olds and Deborah Garrison as poets who break the mold. Local poets Carolyn Gregory and Jessica Harman are poets she greatly admires.  She is currently working on a new collection “[A] View of the Charles,” that will be a straightforward, Bukowski-style collection. It will be a lyrical journey through Boston, the home of the Bean, the Cod, and the King.

Sox-capped men with silvered white pushcarts peddle
honey-roasted peanuts on the Boston Common.
Whatever happened to roasted chestnuts, clutched
in tiny brown paper bags, crooked in fedora-topped
daddies’ grey-tweeded arms, the evening edition
of the Globe absorbing the extra heat? My officemate
offers a dissertation on today’s male after I am foolish
enough to ask her opinion on the vanishing breeds.
It seems wrong not to love trees and men
and the fruit of them while shuffling the pulp of
a thousand murdered trees in an attempt to make
a living without missing another life.
–from The Woods Have Words, p.7

To order “The Woods Have Words” go to: 

Doug Holder’s website


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