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Intermittent Visitors: Kasey Jueds

  Kasey Jueds’s poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including Crab Orchard Review, Barrow Street, 5 A.M. and Verse Daily. She has been awarded residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Soapstone, and the Ucross Foundation. A native of Coral Gables, Florida, she lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her debut collection, Keeper, is from the Pitt Poetry Series.

 

What is your writing process?

For such a long time, it’s been the same, or at least very similar. I write meandering sorts of notes in longhand, in my journal, and write them over and over again until (maybe) lines start to emerge, music, something that feels like a poem. And then I write that over and over again, sifting and revising and moving things around. I try to keep whatever it is (I don’t even call things “poems” until I’ve worked with them for ages) open for as long as possible—open in the sense of being still malleable and pliable and able to be entered. I don’t type things up until I start to have a stronger sense of the poem being, in some essential way, the way it wants to be. (I’m weirdly superstitious about the typing part—once I do that, the poem starts to feel more fixed!) And once I’ve put a poem into a word doc I still type it over and over, although at that stage I’m mostly fiddling at the level of words and line breaks and not making big radical changes.

That process (long drawn-out, rather serious) has taught me so much, and it’s how I’ve worked ever since I’ve started to make poems. But now that the book is done, and almost published, I’m realizing I would love to experience more play in my process of writing. I don’t want to abandon that older, more familiar (yet still always strange and new and surprising) way of making; most of the poems that feel most alive to me have involved time and patience and a certain amount of mental/emotional pressure. And at the same time, I know I can be way, way too serious. I can press so hard I squeeze the life out of poems. I would love to open the door to more light-heartedness, more joy (because there is joy in writing as well as tremendous anxiety and fear and discouragement and all the rest). More play. I was recently so moved by this interview with Sarah Arvio: her process sounds so intuitive, so open and trusting. If I could shift even a little bit in that direction, I would be very happy.

Oh, and since I love hearing this sort of detail from other writers, I write with a fountain pen (I have two cheap ones and a more expensive version, and they—and the bottles of gorgeous ink—are among my favorite possessions), and in a notebook (Moleskines are beautiful but I can’t use them because their paper doesn’t work with fountain pen ink… so I have a variety of other types, some with graph-paper-like pages and some with lines and some blank), and then on a MacBook Pro (which I love very dearly, as well).

I also write aided by many cups of tea.

 

Can you say a little bit about the genesis of your most recent book?

My most recent book is my only book… and I think I wrote it in a very old-fashioned way. I worked on it for a long time (ten years? maybe longer—it’s hard to say exactly when it started to be a “book” or at least a book-in-progress). I tried to look at it periodically as a whole, and periodically I took out old poems that didn’t seem to be working any more, and added newer ones. I shifted poems around (though the first and last poems have been where they are for a long time). I looked at images and how the images in one poem seemed to speak to those in the poem that followed, and how each poem looks on the page, the form it takes, and how that might speak to the shape of the next poem. I didn’t have any sort of conscious idea or theme around which I was trying to shape a manuscript. So many of the books I love and admire are made that way: they seem to have grown up organically, with a mixture of conscious and unconscious work, around a particular something: a topic, a subject. They feel of-one-piece. But my book is much more hodge-podge (that’s largely what I meant by “old-fashioned”), which is why I have such a hard time describing what it’s about when people ask. But I need to get better about this! It’s kind when people ask, and it’s also a very normal sort of question. So I guess it’s about my obsessions, which are not especially unusual ones: intimacy and relationship (with people, yes, but also with animals, landscape, the natural world) and mystery and longing.

 

What are your marketing and promotion habits?

I want to say I don’t have any, but that’s not true anymore! I have been trying very hard, very consciously, to develop these—because my natural tendency is to want to hide in my apartment and pretend nothing is happening, when it comes to things like promoting the book. But I have been lucky in having a very generous friend who is helping me with publicity. She’s encouraging and supportive and working with her has made me focus on this in a way that feels like it’s helping me to grow. She’s helping me find places to read, and I’m working on that myself, too. Another kind friend helped design a website for me. I use Twitter. I’m also lucky in that the publicity department at the University of Pittsburgh Press is amazing. It’s all important. I would never have found some of the books that are most dear to me (many of which are not published by big presses) if they hadn’t been publicized and promoted. And I’m so grateful for the presence of those books in my life. So: this matters. Definitely.

 

Which writers inspire you?

Emily Dickinson, George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins. Rilke.

Jane Hirshfield, Jane Kenyon, Linda Gregg.

They are all long-time companions, people whose work I go to again and again. But I’m also inspired by so many contemporary poets. One of my teachers in graduate school, Suzanne Gardinier, told us that there are times to read in a tightly focused way, to read favorite writers over and over. And then there are times to “cast your net widely,” to read anything and everything—and to read against the grain, read things you wouldn’t normally gravitate towards. When I am in that second, more expansive place, I can feel inspired by many, many writers, and it seems to me there is so much work out there to love. I am inspired by the fact that so many people are writing, when so much in our culture works against it.

I am inspired by my friends who write, who make art—by the beauty and the intelligence of their work, and by the fact of their working, their dedication and courage.

 

Why do you write?

I love this question! And I think my answer is pretty unoriginal: on some level, I do feel that I write because I have to. I have been through periods of not-writing, for various reasons, and while not-writing is, in some ways, easier, it also makes me feel less alive. Making poems feels like making containers for the many feelings and experiences that, if it weren’t for the poem, would have nowhere to go, nowhere to be. All the emotions that are nameless and formless and messy and huge, that seem to ask for something to hold them, to give them a structure, a home. I think I need to make poems because I need to make homes for those things that would otherwise be homeless.

 

This interview is part of Intermittent Visitors: a multi-author blog tour.
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