Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi! I’m James Croal Jackson. I’m originally from Akron, Ohio. I have degrees in Film Studies and Creative Writing. I spent a few years in Los Angeles trying my hand at the film industry, but felt unfulfilled. I lived in my car for several months and traveled the country before landing in Columbus, Ohio.
At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing?
I started writing as soon as I learned how to put pen on paper. I read a lot of books as a kid but my favorites were, by far, the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stein. I read every single one. As a result, a lot of my early writings included fake Goosebumps books and their accompanying synopses. I have to also say that role-playing games such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VII cultivated my love of story and adventure as a youngster. In fifth grade I wrote a series of stories about supernatural mops and, after that, a paragraph-less 140-page novel about a radioactive can of Spam that takes over the world. As an adult, I sometimes wish my imagination still worked in that way.
I dabbled with poetry right around high school. I took some classes in college, but didn’t take it seriously, electing to focus more on fiction and screenwriting. Ironically, it wasn’t until my time spent chasing the film industry when I started taking poetry seriously. Most of my days were spent experiencing new things and the only way to process everything was through poetry. I haven’t really stopped since.
Who are your favorite poets?
Some poets who come to mind are Mark Doty, Carl Sandburg, sam sax, Monica McClure, Ocean Vuong, Mike White, Maggie Smith, and Patrick Ryan Frank, but I am inspired by so many others, too.
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?
I don’t have a set time to write, only that I make time for it every day. My writing process typically consists of making long blocks of text before paring it down to what I believe is essential. I never know what I set out to write when I do. I like to think of it as sculpting: I start out with my stone– the text– and proceed to chisel it down and make revisions until it seems ready to enter the outside world. The revision process can take minutes, months, or years.
Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poetry?
My perception has changed just from reading a lot more. I don’t really know what makes a good poem– only that a good poem affects me in some way. How the poem gets there is the writer’s job, and there are no rules on how this can be achieved. Just write things only you can write.
Are you on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media? Does that fit into your writing life, and if so, how?
I am on most social media sites. My twitter (@jimjakk) used to be used primarily for bad comedy, but now it’s used mainly to promote my writing. I have a writer page on facebook (facebook.com/jamescroaljackson). On Instagram (@jimjakk), I sometimes post pictures of my poems.
Do you have a writing group or community of writers you share your work with? Who are they?
I never had a writer’s group until I came to Columbus. I am involved with Writer’s Block Poetry Night here in Columbus, founded by Scott Woods, Vernell Bristow, and Louise Robertson. I also participate in workshops run by Geoff Anderson.
What are you reading right now?
I am currently reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.
What words of encouragement can you offer other poets who are trying to get their work noticed?
Write every day. Submit often, but read at least an issue of the journal you submit to to ensure your work fits. There’s no shame in submitting to new publications. Be patient. The more you write, the easier it is to wait for literary magazines to get back to you. Find people to workshop with. Be true to yourself and your workshop partners. Read an eclectic mix of books. Fall in love with new poems and carry the words around with you.