[re:con]versations :: Revolution, Guide, Symbol: Jacklyn Janeksela on ‘fitting the witch/hexing the stitch’

Who are you?

So many people & energies. i am really an Oroborus at heart.

Why are you a poet?

i’ve been a poet since the universe infused my being; it was, is, and shall always be. i’ve never not been a poet. i was a poet in my last life and i will be a poet in my next life. The spirit of poet never dies, it is only transferred &/or transmuted. i am a poet because it is my mission to…

When did you decide you were a poet (and/or: do you feel comfortable calling yourself a poet, what other titles or affiliations do you prefer/feel are more accurate)?

Being a poet was not something i decided, it was gifted to me by the universe. Other words that make me feel me: healer, sister, dear, wolf, witch.

What’s a “poet”, anyway?

You’d have to ask someone who’s more qualified to give definitions; i’m just a messenger.

What is the role of the poet today?

What role doesn’t the poet have, that’s a better question. My heart says: Write what’s true to you and say words that connect others, make a community. Fight. Protest the page. Burn the page and start again. Fuck love poems, but write them anyways. Write other types of love poems, write compassion, write in your own blood, bleed out, bleed all the way out.

What do you see as your cultural and social role (in the poetry community and beyond)?

i am not about categories, but i fight for the non-white, non-cis fam.

i write for girls like me who want to be more than a gender or social construct, but who want to be warriors, goddesses, and touchstones. i write to keep this body and the next one alive. i write to accept this body. i write to make light of this body. i write to make all our bodies one.

Talk about the process or instinct to move these poems (or your work in general) as independent entities into a body of work. How and why did this happen? Have you had this intention for a while? What encouraged and/or confounded this (or a book, in general) coming together? Was it a struggle?

There are two collections that became one; they zygoted, then fused. One: the bones of my backyard that have been haunting me since i was a young girl; they turned me witch & i’ve been looking for the right spacial concept in which to birth them/myself. Two: he needles that have stiched me together and that which surrounds me is another huge theme that gets constant attention; like this body is such a suit and the backdrop to this life is stunning. The struggle is against social stigma, but i try to live on the outskirts; i hermit myself further & that becomes another struggle.

What formal structures or other constrictive practices (if any) do you use in the creation of your work? Have certain teachers or instructive environments, or readings/writings of other creative people (poets or others) informed the way you work/write? Did you use any specifically in the production of this book or work within this book?

Spirits use my body, that’s all i can say. Of forms, i know nothing. Of practice is my life.

Every poet or artist i’ve read or looked upon has informed me –of who i want to be & who i don’t want to be. Deep down, underneath it all, i’m fangirl for Smith (both Robert & Patti), Plath, & Acker. Baldwin informed identity; Crowley and Hall surfaced the occult; de Quincey twisted reality. And Contemporary poets –just so, so many. Where does one start? Airea Dee Matthews, Danez Smith, Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, Nikki Wallschlaeger, Joy Priest, Jennifer S. Cheng, Kaveh Akbar, Marwa Helal, Candace Williams, & Shannon Barber, to name a few.

Did you envision this collection as a collection or understand your process as writing specifically around a theme while the poems themselves were being written? How or how not?

What i knew –i wanted to write about how pre & post witch status of sorts. i didn’t know how it would go down, but it just so of fell out of me without my realizing it. It is, was, and will be the defining memory of my little Parisian apartment with my partner & cat; their energies + others were so present & supportive.

Speaking of monikers, what does your title represent? How was it generated? Talk about the way you titled the book, and how your process of naming (poems, sections, etc) influences you and/or colors your work specifically.

In sewing two dresses, of many that she and my mother had sewn, one the color of fresh blood, the other wine –my grandmother gave me the freedom to choose who i wanted to be in this body, in this life. She said tell me what you want and i’ll make it; she was manifesting, essentially. While other girls wore whites and pastels –i was searching the sacrifice. In fitting me and stitching the dresses, i witnessed transformation @ my grandmother’s hand; small gestures that are revolutions, guides, & symbols. She is forever making something –as was my Nana in a different way, in her mind through her schizophrenia. That’s another collection; forthcoming.

What does this particular collection of poems represent to you

…as indicative of your method/creative practice?

…as indicative of your history?

…as indicative of your mission/intentions/hopes/plans?

Things were conspiring from the beginning, it was only a matter of reading the signs. Nothing can stop a heart in motion.

Would you like this work to be translated into other languages / do you hope that it reaches beyond our local geographies and communities? What would be the best possible outcome of a broadly expanded reach for this book? Do you think it’s legible across cultural lines?

If in translation, my poetry can opens the cosmos for another, take that as you will, then i say sure, why not. As stands, i could do it myself in Spanish; could be a potential disaster in French.

If someone was to find this book in a hundred years, or perhaps even further in the future, what would be the best possible outcome? Why?

That the finder reads with hunger & feels she has looked in the mirror. Threading across times, space, culture, race, and gender means we can recognize that we are One. Insert anything from Hermes or Paracelsus or Alan Watts, even, and you’ll see this mission is not mine alone –so many teacher and followers, interchangeable. It’s a lovely thought to imagine that maybe my new spirit would find her old spirit’s book of work; pass it on.

How do you (and do you) feel that poets and other creative people should consider the archive and their role in creating and preserving a (hi)story of their work and the context in which it was created? Do you, as a scholar and/or personally take an active role in documenting/recording not only the product of your creative practice (or that of others) but also the social, cultural, and other intersectional trappings of your process / life / experience? How or how not, why or why not, etc.

A tricky question indeed. Documenting today is mostly digital and to be honest, i’m not sure how that will be preserved in the future. One can only speculate. In Paris, i joined a Art+Feminism archives session and worked on updating Wikipedia sites. As i updated and translated the Paris is Burning page, i wondered how much of what we do is for self or others; and does it even matter if the heart is pure.

Let’s talk a little bit about the role of poetics and creative community in social activism, in particular in what might be called “Civil Rights 2.0,”which continues to evolve around us. I’d be curious to hear some thoughts on the challenges we face in speaking and publishing across lines of race, age, privilege, social/cultural background, and sexuality within the community, vs. the dangers of remaining and producing in isolated “silos.”

i might not be the person to ask at this point in my life because i’ve been so unstable in finding a place to rest these bones; the gypsy life has taken a toll and that means i’ve been distanced from community in many ways. But that’s changing and i’m meeting some humans in Paris who are connected and building; i can already feel projects brewing, but if nothing else, getting together to vibe, talk politics, poetry, and people.