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5 Burning Questions with Jalynn Harris

Jalynn Harris is one of our featured writers at our December 10th reading. Check out our interview with her below.

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

I was a super private kid. I started keeping a journal around the age of 7. 50 journals later and I realize I’ve being doing a longitudinal study on myself. I love research. The first journal I remember was bright pink with a feather glitter pen. I loved sitting in my purple room tattling to the page about my brothers and our pinecone fights or bragging about the igloo we made winter of 2002.

How many drafts = done?

Text is living. And, as the writer, I don’t think I have the say on if something is done. I feel like that’s the job of the editor or classmate or friend who has exhausted the “what does that line even mean” question.

I have such a hard time with re-vision b/c it’s the only time I’m not in a state of meditation when my writing. The first drafts generally happen in trance, totally focused on getting the sounds and shapes in the right order before 11:59 when my submission is due (I’m in grad school). Each poem deserves two things: 1) heavy revision while it’s being written and 2) significant time apart from me.

If I come back and it feels true and exact, then I’ll say it’s “done”. But writing is living and the process is way more important than the product.

What is your favorite book or favorite book-of-the-moment?

Two phenomenal books from this past month of reading: Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and Alison Bechdel’s the Essential Dykes to Watch Out for

What is it about your discipline that gets you the most excited?

I’m always fascinated by the magic of poetic process. There’s always that moment when I first sit down and I’m like: can I do this again? But once I follow the string of whatever image, sound, or feeling I am meditating on, then the poem writes itself.

It’s the poem writing itself that both freaks me out and excites me. A few weeks ago, I was working on a piece and had two word docs open. I’d pulled all the words I liked from the 1st word doc into the 2nd. I was furiously writing in the 2nd word doc and it just was not coming together so I stopped. When I looked up, I read the words left in the 1st word doc and it was obvious that the poem was actually right there. I was like, “woah, uh, where’d that come from?” That’s what I mean by the poem writing itself. Sometimes I feel guilty for taking credit for my work b.c so many moments like that happen to me.

What’s your favorite word or words? What about it/them appeals to you?

The other day I was reading a note in my journal that said: All words are big words. I don’t know if I heard that somewhere or if it came from some part in my brain but it’s true: I like big words. I like all words.

___

Jalynn Harris is the winner of the 2019 Enoch Pratt Free Library Poetry Contest. A Baltimore native, she is currently pursuing an MFA at the University of Baltimore where she is the inaugural recipient of the Michael F. Klein Fellowship for Social Justice. She is also the founder of SoftSavagePress— a press dedicated to promoting works by Black people. Her work has appeared in Transition, Gordon Square Review, Super Stoked Words, Scalawag Magazine, Little Patuxent Review, and BmoreArt

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