This week’s interview features Jessy Randall, co-author of Shape of a Box’s Issue 8. Her a full-length collection of poems, A Day in Boyland from Ghost Road Press was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. She also has four chapbooks published, numerous works published in journals, and her third issue of The Huge Underpants of Gloom is available. Her young adult novel, The Wandora Unit, will be released in September 2009. We caught up with Jessy in her Colorado home while she was helping her children create a baguette sandwich on their Light Brite. (It was nearly lunchtime.) She agreed to our interview, IF we promised to play Foldingoes with her kids so she could read for a bit afterwards.
What was the first book/poem/phrase that rocked your world? I’m going to go with Daniel Pinkwater’s Lizard Music, a book I read every couple of years even now. A middle-school-age kid takes care of himself for two weeks and ends up visiting a hidden island full of talking lizards. He visits the Museum of Memory, which displays lost things, including things you yourself have lost — I still think of that museum all the time.
Dr. Who picks you up in the Tardis. Where/when do you go? You have no idea how fraught with meaning this question is for me. I made a Doctor Who movie with some friends in the early 1980s — you can see portions of it here and here. I think I’ll give a postmodern answer and say that I’ll hop into the TARDIS with the tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and have him take me back to hang out with the fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), during the time Ramana (in her second body, Lalla Ward) was his companion, and then we’ll all go to a faraway planet some time in the far future, possibly with Daleks.
What was your first published piece & where was it published? The answer to both these questions is “Crystal News.” When I was in third grade, my elementary school had a poet-in-residence program. I wrote many, many poems that year. One of them, about salt, became the title poem for the literary magazine we made. My first non-school publication was a set of feminist poems published in The Unforgettable Fire, a New Jersey literary magazine. I think one of them was about how pantyhose oppresses women. That magazine no longer exists.
Do you think the internet hurts or helps literature? I started to write “HELPS” with a lot of exclamation marks but then I had to draw back. I think we’re all reading and writing a lot more because of the internet, but is that “literature”? I don’t know. I’m still going to say helps.
What about authors? Again, helps. I have discovered so many poets through online literary magazines, poets I never would have found by reading paper journals.
When the well is dry, how do you fill it? My well is always at least damp, I think. In the last few years I’ve had a lot of poems spring out of books I’m reading. Julia Child’s My Life in France, Lynda Barry’s One! Hundred! Demons!, Calvin Tomkins’s biography of Robert Rauschenberg, Maira Kalman’s The Principles of Uncertainty, and just recently a book about American Chinese food by Jennifer 8. Lee called The Fortune Cookie Chronicles.
Favorite writing tool? I must have a Boorum & Pease composition notebook, green. For years I’ve had what seemed like an unending supply but there are only two or three left, so I’ll have to restock.
Your biggest fans just burst into the room. How many are there & how do you react? It’s the three people who almost always write back to my poetry announcements, and I burst into tears at my good luck and make introductions.
Why did you submit to Shape of a Box? I loved the idea of poetry videos. I’m very interested in digital poetry, the kinds of poetry-objects you can have on the internet and not on paper.
Fill in the blank: In the vast Poet Sea, I am: a little piece of lettuce-like seaweed floating happily near the shore.