Tag Archives: Sam Shepard

“We Make Our Own Ghosts” – A Conversation with Jessie Janeshek

Nobody has contributed more poems to our weird little zine over the years than Jessie Janeshek, and it’s not even close. It’s because her poetry so perfectly captures that easily-recognizable-yet-hard-to-define quality known as “flappiness” that we look for in the work we publish. (One of her recent contributions, “Delicate / Cheap,” was posted here last week.) Jessie has had poetry appear in other excellent publications like Potluck, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, and Anti-Heroin Chic, among dozens of others. She’s also the author of numerous chapbooks & collections, including The Shaky Phase, published earlier this year by Stalking Horse Press.

Jessie recently exchanged emails with our managing editor Joseph P. O’Brien about her poetry, as well as the sorrow of nostalgia, the allure of Golden Age Hollywood, and the ghosts of our own creation…

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JO’B: To me, your poems feel both spontaneously, almost subconsciously crafted, and yet also meticulously assembled from vintage / antique parts. How much subconscious spontaneity and how much meticulous assemblage would you say plays a part in your writing process?

JJ: I really like this description of my work, so thank you! It’s both lyrical and accurate. I would say that many of the phrases and images used are subconsciously generated. I take a lot from dreams and memories, and I jot down random phrases that come into my head, often while I’m exercising or just ostensibly focused on something else. I also use lines from films, articles, songs, etc. Putting these parts together on the page is where the “meticulous assemblage” comes in. I’m very deliberate about how the parts come together to make the whole. I recall reading an interview with Kim Addonizio quite a few years ago where she referred to her revision process as a “comb-over,” a need to go back through her work and fill in the sparse parts. I do something similar in subsequent drafts of my poems; my writing process often feels like a layering process.

(Here’s a link to the interview with Addonizio. I found it again by googling “kim addonizio” and “comb over” to make sure I wasn’t going crazy.)

JO’B: Do you practice any particular rituals or traditions to write, or to otherwise activate the more creative / intuitive realms of your mind?

JJ: Nothing too interesting or magical. It is usually a little hard for me to get started, if only in the sense that writing is harder than reading news articles on my phone or watching TV or petting a cat or listening to music or just existing. So, I usually put my phone in another room; otherwise, I’m tempted to mess with it any time I get stuck for a second. I usually sit on my couch. I have a journal of on-going notes, as well as a clipboard and a stack of typing paper with notes like more than an inch high. Sometimes I look at them; sometimes I don’t.

I usually have a glass of ice water and something caffeinated. Eighty-five percent of the time it’s strong coffee with a bit of cream and one sweet and low; the other 15% of the time it’s diet pop. (I was told the other day that my use of the word “pop” to describe a carbonated beverage is “so colloquial.”) Sometimes I light a candle or three, but not always.

I will say that even though it can be hard to get started, I’m much happier and saner if I’m writing for a bit every day or at least every other day. If I don’t write for like a week, my brain really starts to feel out of whack.

I write in the afternoon. I hate the morning, and I like to do my reading at night.

JO’B: In your recent interview with Kailey Tedesco for Rag Queen Periodical, you said of your poems’ speakers that “most of the time they’re just nostalgic and sad.” What are your personal feelings about nostalgia? Do you generally see it as a sad thing?

JJ: Yes. As I learned in a college course on Greek and Roman literature, nostalgia literally translates to “a longing for home.” Looking at a past, a home, that I know I can never get back to, is sad to me. The rational part of me is well aware that I’m seeing things from the past in soft focus, both on and off the screen, and that the past has its flaws, just as the present does. The irrational part of me thinks the pasts—and I make it plural, whether it’s my adolescence in the 90s or the 1920s of a film I’m watching—are so much better. And I can never get back to them. And the irrational part of me is where the poetry comes from.

Continue reading “We Make Our Own Ghosts” – A Conversation with Jessie Janeshek

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