10 Questions With Jasmine Jones
Jasmine Jones has been writing on and off for over 20 years. She is a Mama, a teacher, a daughter, and a friend. She lives with her family close to, but not close enough to, a beach in Tampa, FL. Her poem No More Collecting is her first published poem and will appear in Inkwell Black issue 1.
IB: What does being a writer/poet mean to you?
JJ: Being a writer exists in this place in my mind between fear and fearlessness. When I sit down to write, it is out of necessity, because there is something in me that must come out. I try to exercise it out, sometimes I try to drink it out or laugh it out, but it only ever really comes out when I write.
IB: What inspires you? How do you stay inspired?
JJ: I am mostly inspired by the idea that I could write something that moves someone, a situation that someone could relate to and feel less alone. When I got in trouble as a kid, my mom would, of course, fuss, but she would sometimes give me a book to read. A lot of times the books would bridge some of the gaps in our understanding of each other and some of the gaps in my own understanding of self.
IB: Do you put yourself in your poems? How vulnerable do you allow yourself to get?
JJ: Just sitting with my fingers on the keys feels vulnerable. I think it’s impossible to remove yourself from the work. You can hide and maybe bury yourself in some of it, but we’re always there. Sometimes I’m a little more in there than I want to be and lately, I’ve been trying to be a bit more removed. I was in a conversation recently with someone and they told me a story that I could connect to on a personal level but then their account was so much more affecting than mine; I felt compelled to write outside of myself.
IB: What are some of the issues you face when an editor asks for revisions to a piece you feel is done?
JJ: The writing is so personal. It’s hard at first to not take in personally because writing is very vulnerable and born from something real. But I also believe in the power of feedback from someone you trust. I’ve got a great village of mothers and teachers, and friends, and I’m really open to sharing work and getting advice and the feedback that will make me and my writing better.
IB: We talked earlier about revising and you said (about your poem) “I keep thinking about being this person... who stays on the ship... I don't think it serves me anymore.” What does it mean to evolve/outgrow a poem?
JJ: When the writing is cathartic and a part of a healing process, part of how I understand myself, it’s hard to go back and revise from a place that’s true. That poem is about the difficulty of relationships and fighting that impulse to run when things get hard. I don’t have that impulse again, but I’m no longer the kind of woman who would go down with the ship. And I’m kind of sad I couldn’t go back and revise it, but it left me feeling lighter - that I’ve learned or grown from that.
IB: What does revision mean for you? What’s that process like?
JJ: Revision is necessary. Talent certainly matters, but writing has to be methodical. I always find there is a better, or a truer, way to say something. The first draft is just getting it out of my head and then all the subsequent drafts help me get to the truth of an idea or a situation. Finding the time to revise is my greatest hurdle. With a full-time teaching job, a daughter, family & friends, and trying to stay fit and healthy, it’s hard to prioritize this part of my life. But it’s this thing that won’t go away.
IB: What advice about writing and revision can you share with us?
JJ: I probably need the advice. I would say always find the time. Even if you think you’re too busy, time spent writing a shitty poem is never wasted time.
IB: What do you hope your poetry does for a reader? (Ex. teach, soothe, heal)
JJ: I want something I write to be a source of connection for a reader. I hope to write beautifully of course, but mostly, I hope that someone reads something I’ve written and they feel less alone.
IB: What does the future of poetry look like for Black queer writers?
JJ: I don’t know if I’m tapped into the world of Black queer writers enough to answer this question. I think Black queer writers get to tell the truth outside of the echo chamber. Our experiences are expansive and our writing follows accordingly.
IB: What poets are you reading now? And who do you find yourself returning to?
JJ: Nikki Giovanni is my forever poet. I also love Morgan Parker and Danez Smith. I read Morgan Parker’s latest work and cried the entire time. That’s never happened to me before. "The High Priestess of Soul’s Sunday Morning Visit to the Wall of Respect" (Parker) is something I read over and over. At least once a month. Like a devotional. Danez Smith’s book Don’t Call Us Dead was so compelling, I read it while ushering my daughter and her friends from ride to ride at Busch Gardens. Carolyn Forche’s poem “The Colonel” is so important. My mother gave me an anthology called The Black Poets by Dudley Randall. It is my bible.