Off the Shelf: Michael Kleber-Diggs

The secret reading lives of local authors revealed

Text reads "MnSpin" beside the shape of Minnesota filled with the image of with a vinyl record.

Michael Kleber-Diggs, author of the new poetry collection Worldly Things, talks about the writers that inspired him, freeing his writing from a plan, and the resiliency of the human spirit.

Picture of author Michael Kleber-Diggs smiling and standing against a wall
Cover of the poetry collection Worldly Things showing two men looking at the sky

We get to define ourselves, and how we define ourselves is fluid and dynamic.

- Michael Kleber-Diggs

What’s your latest book, and can you share your Twitter pitch (in 140 characters or less)?

Worldly Things offers carefully crafted poems about family and the difficult and beautiful world the poet calls home. The poems are candid and personal and stubborn in their agitation for a just world.


What book inspired you to be a writer?

I can't credit one book. I loved reading as a kid. I remember being obsessed with James Herriot in middle school. I also remembered times when I did not read as much and being called back to my love of reading by books like The Great Gatsbyand Their Eyes Were Watching God and The Bluest EyeGwendolyn Brooks was a big part of why I wanted to be a poet.


What book do you constantly share/gift?

The book I have given as a gift more than any other book is The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley. I can't think of a better life for illustrating a human being's potential to change the world or a better example of how adaptable and resilient people can be. We get to define ourselves, and how we define ourselves is fluid and dynamic.


Where do you write and where do you read?

I write in my kitchen a lot. I like the natural light there and the proximity to snacks. I read in bed a lot and in our living room. I also like to read on airplanes and any kind of train, really any kind of vehicle someone else is piloting.


What book coming out this year are you most excited to read?

It's a tie. Sho by Douglas Kearney and Dead Reckoning by Jude Nutter.


Name one author whose books you never miss.

Just one!?! Okay: Claudia Rankine.


What are you working on now? How is it similar to/different from work you’ve done in the past?

It took me a while to arrive at this plan, but here's my plan: I have no plan. After finishing the last edits on Worldly Things, I stared to think, "What's next?" I was wondering if I'd work on a book of poems or a book of essays. As I walked around thinking about it, it occurred to me that I don't have to choose. My plan is to write and worry about what those writings become later.


What do you want to see more of in contemporary writing?

Experiences. I want to see more experiences and perspectives and cultures and voices and approaches represented in contemporary writing.


Write or read? Pick one.

No. I will not do it. Death first!


What’s the last book you checked out from the library? 

It was The Kingdom by Jo Nesbø. I loved it. I love his work in general, and I read a lot of his dark Scandinavian crime novels in the summer or when I'm traveling.


Order Michael Kleber-Diggs's book Worldly Things from Next Chapter Booksellers. Website: Twitter: @MKDorDiggsy. Instagram: @MKDorDiggsy.


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