From Kathryn’s desk…Great new poetry by a fresh talented voice. Of the ilk of Maya Angelou, and in the spirit of finding surprisingly good prose in a world defined by 140 characters, meet Jessica Kristie.
“Poetry is my heart,
anchors my soul
- Jessica Kristie
As an avid poetry fan (I memorized Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’ in middle school just for fun…) it takes a lot to surprise me with something different where poetry is concerned. Ever since 6th grade and that quirky raven, only a few great poets such as Maya Angelou have earned (in my mind) the right to rub bindings with great lyrical masters on my bookshelf.
So imagine my surprise when recently someone’s poetry affected me in ways I had not been affected before. That’s pretty impressive writing. And Jessica Kristie is the author. Here is a taste of her award winning words in the poem, Red & Blue Alice (from Dreaming in Darkness)
Red & Blue Alice
Spoken into motion,
I laugh as I tumble down.
Touching only light and wind,
warm air through my lungs.
Bubbles of confusion strain my breathing,
as gravity seems to lessen.
Electric rhythms beat through my mind,
sparking something hidden.
Waves of sound vibrate between my fingers,
A deep whisper grips,
and sticks to my chest.
Guiding me downward with a jolting intensity.
What lies at this end?
A thousand miles I have already gone,
every inch has made me something else.
Each moment placed in a box,
a thousand short lived tears.
Blessed wounds have brought me further,
learning to change,
at every bend.
Chasing a proven promise,
turning gray to perfect gold.
Loving hands to catch me,
Comforting embrace –
At journey’s end.
Red for life.
Blue for sleep.
With widened eyes,
and an open heart,
down this Rabbit Hole…
I asked Jessica some questions recently, and since I have found most writers begin at a very early age, I suspected Jessica began writing poetry as a child.
K-How old were you when first forming prose on paper?
I wrote my first poem with I was ten. I always had an affinity for things like Seuss and Silverstein. There was always such fun in their work while also bringing across an emotion or lesson.
K-Seuss and Silverstein were standouts in my childhood, and I suspect for many others as well. When did you want to be a poet by occupation, including publishing books of poetry?
Only recently did I decide that writing was something that was needed. Although always integral in my life, it had not reached the forefront until the last five years or so, and heavily in the last three. I began adding writing to my daily life and when I started a blog, my world changed. The poetry I posted to my website sort of took off. I also found that through social media I was able to reach a new group of readers. From there I decided I wanted to get a manuscript together, and by that point I had a very large collection to pull from.
K-Do you have any favorite poems in your books – if so, which ones and why are they your favorites?
I have a few favorites from each book; ones that pulled at me when I wrote them and still make me remember when I read them. From my first collection, Dreaming in Darkness, I get drawn to Walking Wounded. In one of the verses it says:
“I want to be . . .
where my dreams are not broken down
and I no longer walk among the wounded,
where my tapestry of change
shadows a frightening past.”
It feels all-encompassing of what my book and much of my writing tries to relay, we are not alone. We are all wounded and all want to find healing.
In my latest collection, Threads of Life, I touch on toxic and abusive relationships. This book is primarily prose poetry and is very dark at points. I was inspired to write Threads of Life after experiencing the effects from several people I know that found themselves in similar situations. Each piece in the book is honest and can even be difficult to read at times, but two pieces in particular Show Me and Pretty Wings dig deep into difficult emotions. Ultimately there is forgiveness and healing, and even though the book is threaded with darkness, the hope is to focus on the moments when we find freedom from what binds us.
K-Who influenced you most while growing up?
My father was a huge creative spirit, a wonderful writer, artist and now professional photographer. My mother is also a very talented writer, so that venue, although not always public in my household, ran rampant. I was also heavily influenced by my father’s love for music and the emotional connection he had with lyrics. I latched onto this portion of my childhood and today fall deeply into music, tone and lyrics. Just like writing, music plays a large role in how I perceive the world and how my writing manifests itself.
K-My father’s love for music equally influenced me, and I believe that many of us are deeply affected by music, which essentially, is poetry in motion. Do you have any plans to publish other types of writing – works of non-fiction or fiction perhaps?
I am just about halfway complete with my first fiction novel. I had started one last year but put it aside and began another, feeling more called to this particular topic and story. This is a fiction story that touches on the very under-publicized atrocities of human trafficking. It follows a young girl who gets pulled into the labor trade. My hope is to have it released early next year.
I have also just released my first eBook Weekly Inspirations for Writers & Creators – Because We All Need To Be Reminded To Keep Going, which was inspired by the many authors that I work with. We all go through so many of the same struggles in this industry and this book gives weekly affirmations, writing prompts, and inspirational tips to hopefully add to your arsenal of tricks to keep creating. You can find it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for only $2.99.
K-How hard (or easy) was it to finally get that first book of poetry published?
I am currently with my second publisher. My first was a learning experience with good people and a tremendous editor who taught me a lot. The process of finding a publisher for poetry is very difficult because poetry is known for not making money. Publishers who will take on that risk are limited. The ones who take it on and produce a good product, are even more limited.
I was actually a minority in how I came to be published. The editor at my first publishing house saw my work and gave me a special opportunity to submit although their submissions were actually closed. It was a fairly good experience that I will always be grateful to have had.
My current publisher, Winter Goose Publishing, only publishes a limited amount of poetry per year but once you are in, you are family. Their books are gorgeous, their editors and staff are supportive and helpful, and they truly care about their authors. This is rare in the publishing world, even for small presses. The industry is changing, no doubt, but it is refreshing to see independent presses who are growing rapidly with the change and still keeping their authors in the forefront.
There are a lot of extremely wonderful smaller or medium size independent presses like Graywolf or Milkweed that have had tremendous success with their poetry and support first-time or non-agented authors. There is still a path for us poets and I encourage everyone to not give up on their goals.
K-Do you enjoy doing local poetry readings? When and where can your fans find you reading to a live audience?
Yes, I really do love readings. I have a plan to get more involved now that my last project is done for the year and I can just focus on my novel and the books I already have out.
I started the Inspiring Words-Poetry in Woodland reading series that has a featured reader and open mic the last Wednesday of each month at the Woodland Public Library. You can find more info on my website, jessicakristie.com. I am also a frequent reader and have been featured at Poetry in Davis which is run by the very talented and well known Dr. Andy Jones.
K-What helps you feel motivated to write?
Fresh air and being outside really bring back some life when I am feeling a little off. Stepping away and not forcing myself has been a tough lesson but an effective one. I don’t produce good work when I am forced. Staying positive and finding joy in my everyday life has also aided to a consistent inspiration. Mindset is truly a powerful thing.
K-What great poets, current or deceased, do you enjoy?
Pablo Neruda and Maya Angelou are two of my favorite poets. They are smooth, heartfelt and genuine. Andrea Gibson and Sarah Kay are two extremely talented spoken word poets that inspire me to no end. They are both powerful and making change in the artistic communities. Both are beautiful people and over-the-top talented poets.
K-What else do you like to read, and are you an avid reader?
I read all the time but lately it has been because I do some editing, so I am reading lots of novels but working at the same time. But it is a pleasure to get a sneak peek of a novel before it is released. I actually enjoy biographies, memoirs, and true-crime, but I enjoy all types of genres. Over this past year I have read a variety of books like Back to Work by Bill Clinton, Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer and Switched in Death by Sherry Foley. All very different but I enjoyed each of them.
I wouldn’t say I have time to be an avid reader but I aim to be, and I encourage the possibility.
K-What is the underlying theme, or what drives your passion to write?
My writing, especially my poetry has been to reach out to those that may feel alone in their emotions. Fear of being alone in anything can be debilitating. I have been inspired by so many in my life and this is my way of giving back. Threads of Life took a huge piece of me when I wrote it. Finding forgiveness and hope when we have been wronged is the most difficult path to take, but I have found that road brings the greatest freedom. I truly hope that my words will stir some comfort, joy, and maybe bring you a little inspiration of your own.
Jessica Kristie is the author of several poetry books, and the co-creator for the ArtPlatform book Inspiration Speaks Volume 1 which is now available in print and eBook through all major retailers, and benefits ColaLife.org. She is also the founder of the Woodland, CA, poetry series, Inspiring Words—Poetry in Woodland.
Dreaming in Darkness is Jessica’s first volume of poetry; the winner of the 2011 Sharp Writ Award and nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize. Jessica’s second book, Threads of Life, is available through Winter Goose Publishing along with her eBook offering to writers, Weekly Inspirations for Writers & Creators.
Jessica has been published in several online and print magazines such as Zouch, Muse, A Writer’s Point of View and TwitArt Magazine. You can find all of Jessica’s appearances under her Press Page at: Jessicakristie.com
Article and interview by Kathryn Mattingly.