& i am grateful for the fake wood that cracked the frame open, slit of gold inviting gaze(s) from corner to center. there, a time of decades ago. there, my father, glasses oblong and wide in a suit 'n tie. there, my mother, arm cradled around the babe with a ghost for skin. through smiles, they join; a union of three too big for the still that hangs over my mother's old floral couch.
What does the title, “Emerging poet,” mean to you?
‘Emerging’ in my mind is somebody who doesn’t have the same level of exposure or recognition within the literary world. It’s somebody who you’re not going to find on the Pulitzer Prize list or readily hear of because they’ve had no/very little “mainstream” visibility.
I have mixed feelings about the meaning, though. I think basing the idea that one is ‘emerging’ based on how visible they are in the mainstream can be limiting. I bet – I know – there’s creativity and talent being left unseen because avenues to get mainstream can be restrictive. I think a better term is calling it what it is: lacking mainstream visibility. You don’t have to be a beginner or ‘emerging’ for that.
Do you consider yourself an “emerging” poet? Why or why not?
Yes and no. I’ve been published in a variety of literary journals both widespread and local, and I am ‘published’ in the traditional sense that I do have a book out there ( even if it’s a 30-copy set of a small chapbook ), but I’m not topping the charts in any sense of the word. I think the language for ‘emerging’ is a hassle ( I’m not emerging from anything if I’ve been doing this since I was eighteen, right? ), but I do still somewhat say I am if only because I want to work towards gaining that kind of exposure and becoming more known for my work. For now, it’s the kind of the language that’s available to me and I use it with caution.
What do you think it takes to be “recognized” in the poetry community?
I think a good part of it involves marketability, being ‘out there,’ and just pursuing avenues for that visibility. The sense of being recognized in the poetry community has gotten complex now with the internet; what I think of when I hear ‘get recognized’ is less about being seen ( because I’ve seen many wonderful poets who ARE visible now because the internet makes doing art more accessible ), and more about the formal ‘accolades.’ Who’s getting the awards? Who’s on the top lists?
For me, it just feels like I’m still trying to get out there, one publication and class at a time.
How do you think power politics shape the poetry community?
There’s no denying how systemic issues seep into every part of our lives. I am not surprised ( though definitely annoyed ) when I see ‘Top 100’ lists comprised of primarily white, often heterosexual and cisgender people. The issue with the idea of ‘emerging’ and ‘mainstream visibility’ is that said visibility relies on WHO deems your work “good enough” to be seen by a bigger public. If systemic forces dictate that people who are white/cisgender/heterosexual/etc. are ‘default’, then marketing lists and publishers alike will continue to focus on pushing their stories through.
The great thing about the poetry community that I’ve been seeing is the pushback to that narrative. We have devoted poets making sure to challenge what is ‘default,’ and I hope our push to fight that shows other marginalized poets that you don’t need their recognition to be valid.
What does community mean to you?
I’m still trying to figure that out. I’ve been a part of Facebook groups, forums, clubs at college, etc. and still have a strange sense of ‘not belonging.’ I don’t even mean that in the ‘ I’m not ____ enough to be here’ way but just mentally having a difficult time conceptualizing how big a community can be and who does/doesn’t “fit. I’ve felt alienated from communities because they felt ‘too big,’ or because I wasn’t ‘as active/as outgoing’ and had a hard time mustering the energy, so on and so forth.
Right now, I’d say communities are things I end up ‘falling’ into from my interests. I just hope to do what I like/fight for what I care about, and find other people who do it, too. My definition may change with time, but at the current moment I’d say it’s the net result is an eclectic patchwork of people I’ve met over time – people I call my own ‘community.’
JASMINE SIERRA is a is a graduate of Oberlin College based in Ann Arbor, and is currently in pursuit of an MFA from Spalding University. She is the creator of the chapbook PARADOX, and has been featured in Winter Tangerine, Unrooted, Blackberry Magazine, Neplanta, and Platypus Press. When she’s not busy, she enjoys reading, swimming, archery, performing card readings, cosplaying, and the occasional bout of crying over fictional characters. You can find Jasmine on her portfolio at http://www.sierraj.com, on her blog at emptyfingertips.tumblr.com, or check out her chapbook on her Etsy store at https://www.etsy.com/shop/PocketPoetry