Kimberly Jackson: Poet Interview

One of my favorite things to do on this blog is shine the spotlight on other poets and their work, and it’s even more fun when they’re regulars on this blog. Such is the case for Kimberly Jackson.

Kimberly Jackson

Kimberly Jackson

Kimberly Jackson is a former academic who now reads and performs poetry and flash fiction just for the love of it. Her work has been published in a number of journals, including The Boston Poetry Magazine, Corium, Literal Latte, Wild Violet, Mobius: A Journal of Social Change, and Writer’s Digest. Her first chapbook, Tesseract, is scheduled to release from Finishing Line Press in October.

Here’s a poem from the collection that was published in Writer’s Digest as an example of the sijo poetic form:

Brushing My Daughter’s Hair, by Kimberly Jackson

Recessive genes surprised us with her flaxen helixed curls;
Fifty microns leaves a world of room to tangle. When she’s forty,
Will she still know I finger-combed to gentle out the knots?

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Tesseract, by Kimberly G. Jackson

Tesseract, by Kimberly G. Jackson

What are you currently up to?

My first chapbook, Tesseract, is being published by Finishing Line Press in October (check it out here). It’s a huge thrill for me because I only started writing poetry a few years ago, in my early forties, after not doing any creative writing since high school.

I’ve been very fortunate to publish in a number of literary journals recently, but getting a chapbook published is a very big milestone.

How did you decide which poems to include in your chapbook?

The title poem refers to a time-warp in Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and all the poems in the collection involve a juxtaposition between past and present or present and future. The forms and subjects of the poems vary widely, but they all have something to do with history, memory, and the way people and relationships change.

A lot of the poems in the chapbook originated at Poetic Asides. How did that blog/community help your creative process?

I love Poetic Asides, and this community gets a big thank-you on my book’s Acknowledgments page! As a new poet, the blog’s positive-feedback-only rule made it an extremely safe place to experiment. Your prompts and especially your poetic form challenges also provided a wonderful structure and incentive to create new and different pieces that would never have occurred to me otherwise.

The chapbook includes my responses to your bref double, sijo, and golden shovel challenges, as well as a set of poems I wrote during the 2014 April PAD challenge. (Note to lovers of form: it also includes an English sonnet, a Welsh englyn, a tanka, and a lipogrammatic poem that does not use the letter “e.”)

Another way PA helped me was by introducing me to two great poets, Shaindel Beers and Vince Gotera, who judged the April 2014 PAD challenge and whose work inspired two of the poems in the collection. I wrote to them this year and asked if they would each consider writing an endorsement for Tesseract, which they kindly did.

To show my gratitude, if anyone from the PA community reads the chapbook and tells me which poem in it they like best, I’ll send them an autographed copy of the poem. (Contact me at tesseractpoet@gmail.com.)

Do you maintain a blog or social media presence?

I have a brand-new website, www.tesseractpoet.com, where I’ve posted a lot of my poems that have appeared online but are not in the chapbook. It also has a little more information about me, and notices of upcoming readings.

I hope it is a place where people can get to know and enjoy my work.

How do you manage to write regularly with a day job?

When I first started writing I tried to follow the suggestions you hear about writing for half an hour at the same time every day, and quickly gave up. It was just impossible given the demands of my work and family life. After a while, though, I developed a system that works for me.

When I first get an idea for a poem, I develop a kind of overall blueprint for it, and then I break the work of composition down into tiny pieces that can be done in short stints whenever I have time. It’s like fitting together a puzzle. At any given moment in the process, I might be trying to express a particular idea I have in a short, graceful phrase; or I might I might be looking for a three-syllable word that scans and rhymes in a certain way.

A little task like that might be all I do on a poem for a day, or even a week; but I can do it wherever I am—while I’m loading the dishwasher or on the train or waiting in line somewhere. And I feel a tremendous satisfaction when I solve any one piece. The only time-related discipline I have is that I try to complete one poem a month, and for the most part, I manage it.

The final, essential piece of my creative process is that I have a friend whose judgment I trust completely and who is the first reader for everything I write. His feedback is always really helpful, and knowing that he’s there takes away the loneliness that can otherwise make writing hard.

What tips do you have for others who are just starting to try getting poems published?

Submit to lots of places and ignore the inevitable rejections. Following a suggestion you made in Poet’s Market, I started a spreadsheet when I began submitting poems for publication in 2013 and have kept track of the results. To date, I have had 25 poems accepted for individual publication, plus the chapbook, and one of my poems has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

At the same time, I’ve had 143 poem submissions rejected. In almost all cases, the poems I’ve published were rejected—sometimes by more than a dozen editors—before they were accepted. You just have to realize there is tons of competition out there, but also a vast range of tastes and venues, and you will find a place for your work if you keep at it.

I now try to make sure I have about twenty submissions out at all times, and I know that while most of them will get rejected, there will be a steady trickle of acceptances sprinkled in there too.

Who are your favorite poets to read?

I am constantly reading new ones, since part of what I love to do is to learn from as many different voices and styles as possible. Poets whose work I’ve been enjoying this year include (in alphabetical order): Shaindel Beers, Frannie Choi, Maggie Dietz, Denise Duhamel, Alan Feldman, Vince Gotera, Ken Lee, Taylor Mali, Terry Minchow-Proffitt, Molly Peacock, and Sapphire. I also love to listen to spoken-word poets whenever I can, such as the many outstanding ones that frequent the Nuyorican Poet’s Café in New York City.

Best experience related to poetry. What is it?

It’s hard to pick just one. Getting the chapbook accepted was amazing. So was performing my poetry at the Nuyorican Poet’s Café and getting a warm reception from an audience that includes many incredibly talented artists, most of whom are at least twenty years younger than me!

But I think the very best experience has been the fact that through my poetry, I’ve developed confidence in myself as a creative person. I know now that I can create new and beautiful things out of words, and it’s something I’ll be able to do for the rest of my life.

Could you share one last word of advice for your fellow poets?

There is a quote from one of Franz Kafka’s diaries that I really love. He said, “Life’s splendor forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come.”

My wish for everyone who loves poetry and writing is that they stay connected to that love, even though the pressures of everyday life can make it so easy to bury it. Feeling the inclination to write is really a gift, almost a kind of grace. If you have it you should nurture it, because even if you can’t see at first where it’s going, you have something important to contribute to the world. Keep writing!

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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems. Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

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7 thoughts on “Kimberly Jackson: Poet Interview

  1. drnurit

    Kimberly, thank you for allowing us to take a glimpse at your work. I love your poems (particularly, Brushing My Daughter’s Hair, Shehecheyanu, and saving Grace). Your poems are accessible yet deep and have a spiritual quality – each poem has a soul in it. Like you, my career has been in academics as well as clinical work (psychology), and only in recent years did I make time for writing poetry (and gathered enough courage to post it…) It has enriched my life! Looking forward to reading your chapbook! ~Nurit Israeli

    1. RebekahJ

      Thank you so much for this wonderful note! It made my day. I would love to read your work too! Send me some through the website if you like. Sending you warm regards.

  2. PressOn

    I am glad to read this interview. I remember that sijo, and how vivid were the pictures it drew, and especially how it melded “microns” with a gentle act of loving.

    1. RebekahJ

      Thank you so much! You are such an important presence on this blog and I have often felt very encouraged by you being there and “keeping me company,” as you do all of us. 🙂

  3. Patricia A. Hawkenson

    Congratulations, Kimberly! I enjoyed the thoughtful reflection in your poem about combing unruly hair. Anyone with a daughter can relate to that gentle moment. I appreciate your sharing of the submission process and the ‘stick-to-it’ mentality that defines so many successful people. Best of luck with your latest poetic efforts! So fun that we crossed paths on this ‘Street.’

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