My mother is crawling through a forest of cottonwood,
catkins sticking from her kneecaps like unworked porcupine
-hides. I can hear her moaning, soft drones of sound
that shake the roots beneath her body. She is giving birth
to me here, my sleek limbs aching to protrude past her thighs.
Still, she keeps crawling into taller grasses where heavy
autumn air hangs on her forehead. A great blue heron
and osprey watch us from above—scouting the expanse
of my mother’s journey, and the trail of gore she has left
behind to bring me to safety. My mother finally stops on
a riverbank of irises, her final push into petalled sheets
of rest. Yes, this is the image I like to believe—instead of
a cold room where my father was too drunk to hold her,
too selfish to even be in the room.
I like to think of my birth this way,
in a cradle
of tender purple that bloomed and bloomed.
What does the title, “Emerging poet,” mean to you?
An emerging poet is one who has established social capital through their work. They have been published in notable journals and magazines, and have acquired a steady readership. They may have even received accolades for their work. Unfortunately, most of the opportunities to become an “emerging poet” are still centered in whiteness. The black and brown, the queer, the trans- and nonbinary folx—the demands placed on us to reach “emerging” compared to white writers only reifies the art world’s continued participation in white heteropatriarchy.
Do you consider yourself an “emerging” poet? Why or why not?
I do not believe I am an “emerging poet” within the literature world. I’ve been told by certain writers or magazines that my writing doesn’t feel “right”, based on non-Native, or cisgender, or heteronormative ideals that do not reflect my experiences within the world. To myself, I was emerging as soon as I opened my mouth to speak. I emerged as soon as I could understand that writing did not need to center only my pain, that my ancestral trauma did not need to be made consumable only for white readers.
What do you think it takes to be “recognized” in the poetry community?
Unfortunately, privilege and power is at the center of recognition within poetry communities. It is getting “better” but even neoliberal communities within literature will center non-white voices to co-opt our labor, or to show their magazine’s “diversity” without being willing to put the work in for uplifting our narratives. In addition, there is a large divide between those that have advanced degrees in the arts versus those who do not. Grant and fellowships opportunities become more difficult to access as a majority call for those with a Bachelor’s or higher degree in the Arts. For those of us who could not, or did not pursue those degrees are then denied access to furthering our creative careers.
How do you think power politics shape the poetry community?
Ha, I guess I accidentally answered this question in the one before. Power politics is at the fulcrum of poetry communities. Poetry is still dominated by white, male, heterosexual, cisgender, and able-bodied voices. The demands placed on writers of color to be given, or allowed access to, the same kinds of resources are exponentially more difficult. Our narratives are pigeon-holed into what is “comfortable” for readership, instead of highlighting and acknowledging the multitudes of stories that exist within our communities and cultures. To quote Tuck and Yang, “decolonization is not a metaphor”. It takes real work for the poetry community to reshape itself in a way that is made accessible and healing for writers of color.
What does community mean to you?
Community is me. This has been the most important concept to my upbringing. The praxis of indigeneity is centered on community, such as seventh generational planning, which asks that we live in a way to ensure the lives of the next seven generations. This honors those before us who sacrificed so much to make sure we could have the best lives possible, despite hundreds of years of colonization and violence. Community means hope, it provides refuge for when we are kicked out from our homes or when institutions prevent us from pursuing safety. Community can provide liberation, where we learn to heal and decolonize ourselves by engaging critically with our social locations and nurturing our self-awareness, love, and relationships.
SYAN JAY is a mix'd Indigenous brat exploring what it is to be agender, queer, and biracial. They attempt to navigate these multiplicities of identity through poetry, prose, and creative nonfiction work. Moira J. has been published in Phoebe Journal, ENCLAVE, Sea Foam Magazine, Words Dance Publishing, and more. They have upcoming publications with The 3288 Review and The Shallow Ends. You can keep updated on Moira J at their Twitter @moira__j, or at moiraj.wixsite.com/home.