Welcome to another Author Spotlight! These spotlights are for showcasing author’s (predominantly women and people of color) writing talents and published works. As you may or may not know, I do themed weeks of prominent holidays/events throughout the year on my site. Every time I do these I always feature other authors (usually ones of color and women). And for Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month I am trying to feature authors who have Latin or Hispanic backgrounds. So without further ado let’s get on with the Author Spotlight!
About the Author:
Jessi Jarrin is a CSULB alumna with a BA in creative writing. Her poetry has appeared in the Santa Clara Review, ¡Pa’lante!, PSPoets, Dig Magazine, MadWomxn Magazine, Rice and Spice, and Prometheus Dreaming. Jessi serves as a contributing writer for Antifragile and is the founder of Grieving is Good for You, a virtual poetry workshop centered on the importance of expressing one’s joy and grief, launched early this year. She is also an Editorial Fellow for The Poetry Lab. Jessi hopes to soon pursue an MFA in creative writing and eventually teach at the college level.
What and when started your love for writing?
What fuels my love for writing comes down to both the need to express myself and the need to encourage others about the importance of doing so for themselves. When I was younger, I was labeled very talkative. But, I also was known for being “spacey.” Being a writer, there’s a nice balance of both. I can be introspective, while also voicing my story and lending my voice to others, too. I guess I’m still that same girl in some ways.
I specifically remember writing a short story when I was around eight years old about a little mouse who was sad because it started raining, until he realized that the flowers around him were happy for the rain. I also wrote some very “rhymey-rhyme” poems about kittens, but I did not return to creative writing until college, where I took my first creative writing workshop. I would say I fell in love with poetry almost immediately.
Of all of the book genres, what drew you to write about yours?
In grade school, poetry was either not taught or not taught to us effectively. I appreciated it, sure, but not as much as I did when I took a course taught by an actual poet.
I’ve been scared of many things my whole life like the dark, but more abstractly, of abandonment and loneliness. Poetry (through my practice and understanding of it) was one of those fears I was able to work through. In fact, poetry helped me understand the fears I had and still have. I was also attracted to the subversive nature of the genre.
I often write about familial trauma, and I realized that even just using lines, versus sentences, helps me to truly express these heavy, traumatic events without fear of shame. I can’t wrap up my experiences into a box with a pretty bow. That’s why I appreciate the medium of poetry. I like playing with form, lineation, and organization. Poetry subverts expectations, and I am a huge believer in the concept and application of healing through writing.
How has your Latinx/Hispanic background and culture shape what you write and how you write?
My father was born in Ecuador, and my mother was born in Korea. Their lives have shaped so much of mine. Their joys and successes, but also their hardships and pains. It naturally comes out in my writing because, in my poetry, I’m exploring my identity and how it connects to others.
I don’t think that I write with the intention of being a “half Latina, half Asian poet,” but of course, since my poems do come from my experience, my bicultural identity is always present. I often write about the family I grew up with and the suburban neighborhood in Lakewood I grew up in, but so many parts of my bicultural experience seep through. I write to not be written for.
What book do you think everyone should read is based (or inspired by) around Latinx/Hispanic culture?
Wow, this is a tough one since there are many amazing artists writing right now. I think any poet interested in Latinx/Chicana/o poetry should consider reading Sara Borjas, Yesika Salgado, Karla Cordero, Eloisa Amezcua and Javier Zamora. All poets are contemporary, and they have shaped me.
What makes your book(s)/writing special?
I don’t strive to be unique as much as I strive to be genuine and compassionate. After all, it can be said that everything is derivative, so I try not to center all of my efforts on being unique. It does feel nice to know that others can recognize my “voice” in poetry, though, of course.
So…what are you working on now?
Earlier this year, I founded my own virtual poetry workshop titled Grieving is Good for You. I am currently running a Fall 6-week session there, which starts October 11th. I am also involved in other local communities such as Art of Nothing Press and The Poetry Lab. All three can be found on Instagram. Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity, Winnie!
You can read some of my poetry at jessijarrin.com or follow me on Instagram @jmjpoetry. If you’re interested in my poetry workshop, follow us on Insta @grievingisgoodforyou. You can also follow @artofnothingpress if you like to support small, independent publications.
“I write to not be written for.” Woah, what powerful words. Jessi is a great writer, poet, and person. It was great to meet her and get to know her better. And best of luck with your poetry workshop (that sounds so cool! ). If you want to get in contact or connect with her, you can follow her on:
Thank you all for reading and remember:
Live. Love. Laugh.