Photo credit: Mark Hiltinghouse

Jeffery Renard Allen was a Monson Arts Resident in the Winter of 2023. He is a Chicago-based writer who has published six books of fiction and poetry. Among many other accomplishments, he is a recipient of the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Fiction, the Ernest J Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, and a Guggenheim fellowship. His newest book is titled Fat Time and Other Stories (2023).

Check out this excellent and thorough interview with Jeffery with The Big Other at the link HERE.

1) What was the best part for you about being at Monson Arts? 

Monson—where do I begin! The dinners were incredible. Great food. And great company, the other residents, all accomplished artists. I made some lifelong friends. 

2) What’s your focus with your work now that you’ve left Monson Arts?

Last year at Monson I was working on a memoir, “Mother-Wit,” that uses my struggles with bipolar disorder to hopefully reframe the conversation about Black men in this country through a lens of mental illness and mental health. Happy to say that I am still hard at work on this book, but with the passage of time, I have made tremendous progress. For one thing, I have achieved a better understanding of the book’s overall structure, how it should begin and where it must end.

3) Name 3-5 writers/artists and/or books/works that continue to inspire you. 

For inspiration:

Writers: Marcel Proust, William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, J.M. Coetzee, John Edgar Wideman, Mohamed Mbougar Sarr (The Most Secret Memory of Men: a brilliant book by a brilliant young novelist), Mavis Gallant (I truly love her short stories), Vivian Gornick: a brilliant nonfiction writer, and Juan Rulfo and his novella, Pedro Paramo: a brilliant novel that has influenced several generations of writers.

Visual artists: Van Gogh, Romare Bearden, Mark Bradford, Julie Mehretu, Wangechi Mutu, and Nick Cave

Musicians: John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Miriam Makeba, Jimi Hendrix, Erykah Badu, Oumou Sangare’, Brent Faiyaz, Tems, J.I.D., Jorja Smith, and SZA among others.