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In Which I Declare My Resistance / an interview with poet Jeannine Hall Gailey

In Which I Declare My Resistance

By Jeannine Hall Gailey

I will resist the moon. The sun will not exert its solar pressures
on me. I will resist the wind; it will not carry me away.

I will resist the entire earth, a cloak of darkness around me
and a cave to protect. A protest of oceans rising, of clouds descending,

dust in the air and fire in the sky. I will resist
with plagues of locusts, with the withering of crops

and when you cry out, don’t be surprised if you hear
my laughter in the scraping of tree branches together,

in the movement of air through the empty windows.
You had your chance. I will resist in a barrage of rooks

and rocks and wild horses. The fish will glint in the light but you
will never catch them. The birds will claw at your eyes.

If this world burns, so be it.
I am the feathers of a thousand poisoned snow geese,

the cesium in the snow and clover in the mouths of children.
I am the embers of the dresses of charred women.

First published in The Rise Up Review.

 

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Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the VillainessShe Returns to the Floating WorldUnexplained FeversThe Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA’s Elgin Award. She’s also the author of PR for Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity and Marketing. Her work appeared in journals such as American Poetry ReviewNotre Dame Review and Prairie Schooner.

Jeannine and Bekah connected via The 2018 Poet Bloggers Revival Tour. We wanted to know more about Jeannine and her writing, so here is our interview with her.

Q~Tell us a little about the poem, “In Which I Declare My Resistance.” How is it representative of your work?

A~This poem was a difficult one to write. I was feeling hopeless, feeling what, as a writer, I could possibly do against the many injustices, evils, and hurts in the world right now. And, this poem just came out.

A lot of my poems are written in the first or second person, I think because I’m often thinking of talking directly to a person, to an audience, and I love persona poems, because they kind of allow poets to play with being a fiction writer. I love stories, but mine just come out in poem form.

Q~How would you describe your style?

A~Conversational surreal? There’s an art gallery here that describes itself as “goth surrealist pop,” and that might be a good description of most of my own work, too…with a mythological twist.

Q~Do you find yourself returning to certain themes or subjects in your work? What are they and why do they resonate with you?

A~Yes! Fairy tales, mythology, and science inform almost all of my poems. Feminism is definitely a recurring theme, as is what might be called “body horror” poetry. I studied biology for my first degree, and my husband’s a chemical engineering major, so we regularly have discussions about the latest in medical research or environmental news, so of course it comes out in my poetry. I was (and remain) a huge fan of mythology from all kinds of cultures and love to read fairy tales in translation.

Q~What’s one piece of advice you want to share?

A~I wrote a whole book of advice called PR for Poets all about how poets can get the word out about their poetry books, how to do readings and book parties, and all that stuff. I also write a lot of how-to articles for Poet’s Market and talk casually about rejection, submitting, and the business of writing on my blog. If I just had one sentence, it would be: read widely – and have fun with your writing. If you don’t have fun with it, who will?

Q~What did you learn from writing PR for Poets?

A~I just wanted to give poets what I didn’t have when my first book of poetry came out. I had published a technical book, previously, and worked in technical publishing before publishing my poetry book, so I knew some things about advertising, contracts and distribution, but poetry books are a totally different thing – especially in the realm of things like reviews, awards, and book launches – poetry books are in their own little universe. I wish poets that “made it” talked more openly about how they got to where they are, because I often feel like people act like it’s magic or some kind of secret code. There’s nothing mysterious about it – and a lot of is based on hard, discouraging things, that poets can’t control, like the amount of money the press will spend or the press’s prestige level, which will impact reviews and distribution. And, there are new avenues that didn’t even exist a couple of years ago – like Instagram Poetry! Anyway, I hope the book is helpful to the many poets who bring out books every year and aren’t sure about what exactly will happen and what will be expected of them.

Q~What was it like to be Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington? 

A~It was quite an honor to serve the community there. It’s famous as the home of Microsoft and other tech companies. I got to meet with the mayor to talk poetry, read poetry with the city council, and talk with teenagers and librarians about poetry and technology. I got to write poetry in connection with local visual artists, which was a real pleasure. The whole idea of being involved in the civics of our community is still very moving to me. I wish more cities had a Poet Laureate Program – it doesn’t usually involve a ton of money, but it helps people interact more actively with literature in ways they don’t, normally.

Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in reading more of your work?

A~My website has some links to my work, including some recordings, as well as links to my books of poetry. I’m also on Twitter and Instagram.

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