Poet Interview #21 – Jessica Lindsley

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing? Who are your favorite poets?

The short story: Introvert. Powerlifter. Feminist. Poet. Artist. The longer version: I’ve been writing my entire life. In first grade, I got held in from recess for writing a story instead of my first math test. I did poorly in school and my dad prevented me from receiving help for my dyslexia and ADHD by showing up at the two-room school after a night of drinking, and no one teacher ever suggested I get help again. My father’s untreated schizophrenia and alcoholism kept our family isolated and in poverty in spite of my mother’s best efforts. He’d hire us four kids out as farm labor at below minimum wage, paid directly to him; summers were spent at primitive camping areas with no running water and eating bluegill and perch for every meal or boiled wheat left by Mormons moving out of the area; winters were spent training for endless weightlifting meets and standing at attention during home bible studies. My dad hated women and I grew up with conflicting messages. On one hand, I was physically strong, a powerhouse lifter dominating state and national championships but indoctrinated to believe that women caused all evil in the world and beaten relentlessly if “god” told him I had evil thoughts. I started keeping a journal as a suicide note and it became my lifeline. It was my way of expressing my story, the horrors of the world I lived in and proving that my experiences were real.

I wanted to be John Milton and wrote hundreds of epic poems in high school incorporating the mythology and Latin I knew to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel or Bowie songs. Which my dad believed to be Satan music and I had to hide my writing at my locker at school for fear of being punished. In college, I discovered T.S. Eliot, memorizing The Wasteland and holding dramatic enactments at the same coffee shops that kicked us out for not making enough purchases or laughing too loudly as we did our homework. I only started to read women in the last decade, finding that the ideas the men I was trying to be did not speak to or include me. Emily Dickinson, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath paved the way for Sharon Doubiago and Carolyn Forché.

How do you first start writing a poem? Does it come to you out of the blue, or do you have a set time where you meet with your Muse each day and let the words just … come? Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?

Everything starts out as a long-hand journal entry in a spiral notebook or notes taken on masking tape and hidden inside my shirt if I am at work. Nothing freaks my co-workers out like finding some of my poems on the production floor, so I hide them the best I can. I always thought a real writer writes novels, and spent many, many years trying to force myself into doing so. I am a non-linear thinker so an A to Z narrative is harder than self-performed root canals, and I have been working for years to overcome dissociate and PTSD/trauma issues that prevented me from a straightforward storytelling style. The Artist’s Way helped me to write what I have in me instead of trying to conform to anybody else’s style or genre.

Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?

All of it; most active on Pinterest lately. Facebook really helped validate my identity as a writer, living vicariously through the posts of friends about poetry readings, book signings and actual physical interactions with other people who write. I read everything they posted and started a self-guided reeducation based on what I realized that I didn’t know. It’s easy to get caught up with only reading off the phone but I love, love, love physical books.

Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they? What are you reading right now?

In 2011, I joined a writer’s group, whose members write sci-fi, epic fantasy novels and erotic fan fiction. I learned that sometimes no feedback is preferable to uninformed feedback. My sister and I started a poetry reading series, basically trying to create the events we wished were in our area. I find myself following leads, asking people around me if they know anyone who writes poetry and pushing the limits of my introverted comfort zone. Seeing poets read their work has been phenomenal and it feels awesome to finally have a sense of community.

What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?

Persistence. Be brave. Be you. No one has the story you have.


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Scott Thomas Outlar hosts the site 17Numa.wordpress.com where links to his published poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, reviews, and books can be found. He is a Best of the Net and three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Scott's poetry books include: Songs of a Dissident (Transcendent Zero Press, 2015), Chaos Songs (Weasel Press, 2016), Happy Hour Hallelujah (CTU Publishing, 2016), and Poison in Paradise (Alien Buddha Press, 2017). Scott serves as an editor for The Peregrine Muse, Happy Hour Hallelujah, and Novelmasters.

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