Jenna Fletcher, 1001 Interviews No. 6

Jenna Fletcher is a writer, talker and chronic dabbler based out of Portland, OR. Mostly interested in one-hit wonders (and how to make them), vaguely romantic experiences, knives, and Drake.

or, *knife emoji next to heart emoji*

Find more of Jenna’s work here: http://www.whatsmineisyrs.com/ + and semi-monthly dispatches here http://tinyletter.com/thisisyrs

Plz send any questions, brief love letters or photos of dogs to: jmariefletcher [at] gmail.com

Laura Houlberg interviewed Jenna Fletcher.

 

LAURA

Let’s start with something easy. 🙂

You write poems, but that’s not all you do. You also write essays, paint, sculpt, collage, and are altogether pretty crafty. Is this something that carried over from a childhood of playing around in different mediums? Was there a creative logic behind what you are currently drawn to? Do you allow those mediums to interact? This is like five questions, actually, so maybe not that easy….

*Jenna reads my question, and immediately shuts her laptop and makes a move toward the door*

JENNA

Wow, if this is easy I am really nervous about where the rest of this interview goes….

I definitely think that my inclination to play in different mediums roots from a curious childhood of dabbling and problem solving my way through projects I didn’t necessarily have the “”“correct”“” tools or instruction for.

Trial and error is the intersection at which I live, haha!

It would be disingenuous for me to not point in the direction of my childhood when I think about how my creative practice has evolved, but I also think a lot of the logic is about this deep understanding in myself that the work shows up already knowing what it wants to be?

I can manipulate that or ignore it altogether but sometimes the work shows up and (trying to not sound totally woo woo here) tells me that it wants to be a poem or a fucking ceramic bowl or a comic!

At its best I’m glad to be constantly trying, at its worst I’m irritated that the work suddenly decides it wants to be an embroidered and watercolored comic panel and I’m like… “okay, but I’ve never done that before?” and begrudgingly get to work. The mediums feel deliberate and not-deliberate all at once, and because of this I never particularly feel like I have to make them interact. They all feel like parts of a whole.

This would have been a less involved answer if I had just been honest and told you I also get bored very easily. 🙂

LAURA

I love the idea of not having the “”“correct”“”  tools! Do you feel like you have those now? I guess not totally since you mentioned the frustration of being struck with watercolored embroidered comics ideas (that sounds gorgeous, btw, I hope that comes to fruition)… Maybe “”“correct”“” tools aren’t super important?

JENNA

If the point of a practice is to, for instance, Make A Watercolor Painting, grinding up like… colored pencil lead into a powder and mixing it with water is not the way to do that. If the point of the practice is to Make A Thing, then mission accomplished!

Access-wise I’m fortunate enough to be more able to acquire tools that make certain practices easier or “correct” but I try not to conflate that access with ability. I’m not a mathematician. I don’t deal in fact, I deal in feeling. I’m not sure that I’m ever confident I have the correct tools or skill even, but I’m more comfortable with that navigation now. Here I mean emotionally. Here I mean that I know I can find the way eventually, even if it’s messy. I do a lot of things wrong and I think that’s made me a better Doer, even if sometimes someone is like “Jesus, why are you doing that, we have the technology to make it easier!” and I’m still covered in glue and popsicle sticks.

LAURA

What’s the latest popsicle stick art you’ve made? Just kidding… 🙂

Did you actually ever grind up a colored pencil for a painting?

JENNA

Yes! In thinking of this question I realized that I’m not sure if it was always an access issue (though that existed sometimes!) or if I was just a stubborn weird, kid who liked chopping stuff up. Somewhere out there my parents are like… “uh we would have bought you watercolors what the hell!”

LAURA

I think access issues can also nudge us toward developing into those kinds of weird kids (and adults)!

Speaking of interesting forms, you’re currently sending out a newsletter. What drew you to that form?

JENNA

I think newsletters are such a great balance of the secret and not-so-secret. There’s something intimate about them going directly into people’s inboxes, about that agreement between you and the reader, but also something comforting about not having a blog where people can endlessly scroll the archives of yourself. I’m drawn to the delicate negotiation of feeling vulnerable while still feeling like my words are finding safe ground. It feels informal so it’s a neat place to try out ideas as well.

LAURA

Yes! The internet has a long memory…

JENNA

I misread this as “the internet IS a long memory” and I almost out-loud gasped!

LAURA

That phrasing is also true, as far as I’m concerned.

JENNA

That’s why I gasped. I felt offended by the accuracy.

LAURA

Do you see newsletters, or your own attraction to them, as fitting into a larger movement of folks like us who grew up oversharing on the internet retreating into other forms of communication, either offline or through more private delivery methods?

(Also where can someone sign up to receive your newsletter?)

JENNA

YES! What were we thinking?! It’s a little terrifying to realize some people have literally watched me grow up on the internet. My main blog for a long time has been around for 7, 8 years now. That’s… a lot of stuff!

(People can find the newsletter at http://tinyletter.com/thisisyrs)

LAURA

Quick: what percentage of your poems would you consider to be “love poems”?

JENNA

All of them? Uh… That’s not a percentage.

LAURA

It’s alright, you did state earlier that you’re not a mathematician, so that’s on me.

Do you need to call a life line? I don’t know any mathematicians, unfortunately. :,(

JENNA

I’m crunching the numbers…

Probably 70% are love poems, but not ~loooooooove poems. 15% are knife poems. 5% aren’t even actually poems. The remaining 10% are like… about romance that is not romance and is actually just the way I feel when I watch someone’s hands or whatever.

LAURA

HANDS.

JENNA

I KNOW! I’VE GOTTA GO!

LAURA

*Interviewer drags Jenna back to the interview table*

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the role of identity in poetry, and more generally, art. Of course, this is kind of a catch-22 for anyone who has a marginalized identity – we’re expected to talk about how “”“identity”“” affects our work, while people who have privileged identities don’t get asked those questions. However, I know that identity shows up very subtly in your work – it’s there, and it obviously informs the work, but you’re not writing capital letter “identity” poems that are explicitly about Race or Sexuality or Gender or Class. I’m assuming this is an intentional choice in part? I love it and want to hear more about it.

Also, I ask this in the context of the types of “bios” that seem to be getting more and more popular due to blogs and online spaces where writers and artists list all of their identities at the get-go. I think it’s super helpful to have those power structures acknowledged up front, but sometimes can also expect and necessitate a certain “outness” that folks have to navigate?

JENNA

I want to be seen. I think that many of us who live at the margins want that, but I’m not interested in such an explicit, staccato list of descriptors of myself. Something about it, for me, feels like a way to hide behind the outness, to make excuses for my work (and, I guess, its effectiveness). I don’t want a laundry list of descriptors to distract myself or to distract others into thinking they understand. I hope that the intersections of my identity–all of the threads that I’m still learning–always find ways to show themselves in my work. I don’t imagine that they won’t. I can’t unpeel from them even if I wanted. But I think in that inexplicitness I honor and center myself and my experiences by not giving away my whole hand. By making other people do that work.

LAURA

Yes, absolutely. I like putting the onus of responsibility on the reader sometimes for things like that too.

Like, MEET ME HALF-WAY GODDAMMIT.

JENNA

YESSSS. COME ON, COME THRU!

I think there’s something about surprising people, too. I like the idea that someone might see my name and show up at a reading unprepared. If the personal is political, then I’m a political poet. But I want people to not know how dangerous I am.

LAURA

*knife emoji next to heart emoji*

JENNA

My new short bio.

LAURA

As I think about it more, I also kind of sometimes don’t want to be “seen”? Do you ever feel that? Knowing that the “seer” might bring their own shit to what they’re “seeing” in your work?

JENNA

As a literal and basic fact of safety, yes, sometimes being seen can feel overexposing! Aside from that (as if I could aside from it….) I consider this most when navigating what it means to be seen but also not be treated as a monolith or a token. This is an exhausting consideration, but living in brown skin means some parts of me can’t be UNseen. This politicizes me whether I want it to or not.

As far as other people not interpreting my work correctly, not seeing me correctly, I think I’ve learned to detach as much as possible. I’m all too comfortable with this understanding that once my work is out, it’s not really mine anymore. Or it’s mine but I can’t control how it’s taken in. There’s some freedom in that.

LAURA

Absolutely. *nods vigorously*

Make a one-sentence counter-argument to this statement: The internet is ruining our lives and making us less human!

JENNA

Uhhhhhh….

People who feel this way clearly have never live-tweeted their depressive episodes. Now That’s What I Call Human(™)!

LAURA

Do you like collaborating with other artists or are you more into doing work on your own?

JENNA

I’m aggressively into doing work on my own.

LAURA

*knife emoji*

Let’s say someone comes up to you and says, “Jennnnnaaaa! I love your work and would LOVE to do this _____ with you?” What do you do?

JENNA

Probably say something weird at first. Shuffle my feet! It really depends on what it was! I like the idea of passive collaboration. I like the idea of making work and then passing it along to someone else. Or back and forth. I don’t like the idea of anyone telling me what to do! I’m a Taurus for christ’s sake!

LAURA

Mmm, I like that. So more like conversations through each other’s individual work? Rather than collaborating on one thing together.

JENNA

Definitely! Expanding a narrative between two works that might not seem initially linked, between two people, is something I’m interested in.

LAURA

If you could co-write song lyrics with any musician/singer/rapper/performer, living or not, who would it be?

JENNA

Oh FUCK! If I think about this too long, we’ll be here for hours. Off the top of my head, the first name that came to mind was Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest. I’ve been listening to them a lot lately (and before that, for a decade) in the wake of Phife Dawg passing away and, god, what a talent. I’ve never fancied myself a lyric-writer and certainly not a rapper but I’d take the challenge if I had the chance to rap “Yo, microphone check one, two, what is this? The five foot assassin with the roughneck business!” with him just once.

Interviewed by Laura Houlberg.

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