Jessie Carty is the author of four poetry collections which include the chapbook Fat Girl (Sibling Rivalry, 2011) and the award winning full length poetry collection,Paper House (Folded Word 2010). Jessie teaches at RCCC in Concord, NC. She is the founding editor of Referential Magazine.
Me: Will you tell us a little bit about your new collection “Fat Girl?” Why did you choose this title?
Jessie: I usually have a very difficult time with titles, but “Fat Girl” was always the title for this chunky chapbook.
Me: It seems like weight is the last viable topic of scorn for people—you can’t make fun of anything else and be accepted, socially, but you can still mock someone’s weight. And yet, at the same time, we, as a nation, are growing heavier. Is there something worthwhile in this scorn? Or is it purely a negative thing?
Jessie: Unfortunately, there are still so many people who want (and/or need) to have someone to ridicule. Like you said, it is becoming increasingly unacceptable to make fun of people for their race, ability or sexual orientation (although many people still try to take people down for those attributes still as well), but many people feel that weight is still fair game. I think it comes down to two things: 1 – the fat man is funny so therefore it is ok to make fun of fat people scenario 2 – fat people deserve to be mocked because they should be able to control what they eat. I do find it a negative thing. You never know why someone may be fat. It could be due to medication, they could have recently given birth or heck maybe they just like to eat. Why do you care? (And, of course, I don’t mean you – I mean the universal you).
Me: Do you find public performance of your work to be useful? Necessary?
Jessie: When I started writing again after about a 5 year break (oh that sad little break), I found it extremely meaningful to get out there to read my work because I wanted to connect with other writers. I gave up writing, in part, because I lacked that connection with other people. The internet (dating myself here!) has made it much easier for me to return to writing because it is so much easier to find like-minded people. I also love to hear other writers read their work; it almost always inspires me to write as well. All that being said, now that I am working full-time again I have found that I have less time to participate in open mike events. Now, I have to focus more on readings where I’m specifically scheduled.
Me: How has teaching influenced your writing?
Jessie: I’ve always felt like a teacher, even when I was sitting in a cubicle working insurance claims back in the day. I feel I was teaching through my blog even before I officially began teaching in the classroom. Probably the biggest effect is that I have less time to actually sit down to write. It has made the time I do have to write, however, more precious and productive. A few of my students, of course, have also shown up in poems.
Me: You’re an editor for Referential; can you tell us a little about the journal? How does editing affect your writing? Does it help/hurt?
Jessie: A few years ago I started a YouTube based lit mag called Shape of a Box but it became time consuming. I really loved editing, but I didn’t want to just start another online magazine. The idea for Referential came to me in late 2009 and I launched into at the beginning of 2011. I started with an open call from which I picked a poem to feature. After that people submit poetry, fiction, non-fiction, art, and mixed-media to “refer” from different pieces on the site. I occasionally have new calls for featured work, but the actual business of reviewing referrals has kept me pretty busy.
I think editing has definitely made me a better writer. It is always harder to see the flaws in your own writing, but when you see something in someone else’s work that makes you cringe it is much easier to go back to your own work to then remove the cringe worthy.
Me: You update your blog pretty regularly—writer to writer, let me ask: do you find a blog valuable as a writer? If so, how?
Jessie: I started my blog when I was working full-time in an office and going to graduate school. I had it as an outlet to process all that was going on, but as time has gone on I’ve found less time to actually work on it. I’m now down to about 1 post a week although I will post more if I have book reviews and/or interviews (such as this) to post. My blog has become my personal website. With wordpress software I can register my domain name and create pages so that I not only have a blog, but I also have a place to put up my resume, publication links etc.
A blog can be great for two things 1 – for you to connect with other writers and readers 2 – as a cheap way to put up a website where people can find everything about you in one place. The one thing I always caution about blogging is don’t do it if you aren’t going to read blogs by other people. It is, at least at the start, about community.
Me: Who are your biggest literary influences and how have they influenced you?
Jessie: I always find this kind of question terribly difficult to answer. I remember falling in love with nursery rhymes, Dr. Seuss and Robert Louis Stevenson as a child. I loved the rhythm and play of words. I still love that in my own writing. In junior high and high school there was Poe and the romantics (especially fell in love with Blake). What teen doesn’t relish in some melancholy? In college I went through my modernist phase and found myself trying to be a mini-Eliot with allusion riddled poems. All this is background, but I’d have to say now that the freedom of contemporary verse is where my heart is. I love that we can write about ANYTHING especially in the south. Moonshine poems anyone?
Me: What have you read recently that really blew you away?
Jessie: Another tough one! I’m actually reading the novel “Freight” by Mel Bosworth which is wonderfully lyric and narrative all together. I also read Christine Garren’s most recent chapbook “The Difficult Here.” She was my first poetry teacher as an undergrad and she still blows me away. I am inspired by people who write differently from the way I write, but do so in such a magnificent way. I could never write like Christine, but I can dream.
Me: Will you tell me a little about your writing schedule? Do you write every day? Do you have any rituals that help bring inspiration?
Jessie: I have moved a little bit away from writing everyday although I still seem to write at least every other day (that may have something to do with having two days where I teach from 3-9 and others where I teach from 11-2:30 – which days do you think are better for writing?) I still love to write poems by hand so I tend to attempt a new one or two once I have had time during the day to type up anything in the journal from the days before. That always feels like a wonderful little ritual. Speaking of Blake and inspiration together, I am currently using the Tiger poem as a jumping off point whenever I feel blank. I just pick a word in the poem and go with it.
Me: What are you working on now?
Jessie: I dropped a hint about with the Blake Tiger project, but I’m also writing poems from the perspective of Pammy, the daughter of Daisy in the The Great Gatsby.