Interview with The Poet

04/21/2015 03:16 pm ET | Updated Jun 19, 2015

A Rod McKuen 8-Track. That was my first exposure to poetry and looking back, it didn't resonate with me because if my sisters liked it then I wanted no part of it. And if this guy was so special, how come he didn't have a real band, with electric guitars? Well, that was my 12 year-old mindset.

Jessica Kristie laughs.

Are 8-Tracks coming back?! If so, then I want to get on that train.
Rod McKuen gave a lot of himself in his recordings. If you put yourself out there, then give all of you. People have a deep desire to grab on to something, and without knowing or understanding they will connect with you if you bleed a little. It can take a lot out of you, but the end result is a beautiful community of like-minded individuals.

Jessica is the founder of Winter Goose Publishing (full disclosure: publisher of my novel) and has written poetry since the age of ten. And to complete that circle started by Mr. McKuen, she's also read some of my poetry.

The first poem I ever remember reading was from Robert Frost. His poem Nothing Gold Can Stay was short, sweet, and even at my young age I could understand there was a deep meaning behind it. I didn't necessarily get what a metaphor was exactly but I knew the words were powerful, meaningful, and could be inspiring. It was a unique way to reach me and I knew at that moment it could be a way to reach others too.

Do you still have your first poem?

I don't specifically remember my first poem but I have poetry I wrote from as early as ten years old. I consider poetry my first language. It's what has always resonated with me the most.

So back to Rod McKuen. I was probably in college and studying Shakespeare, before I could appreciate what he was doing. Did you ever want to record your poetry like Rod McKuen did?

I love spoken-word poetry. That is something newer to me and I discovered it only about five years ago. People learn in so many different ways and audio is powerful. Performance poetry is a different monster that I have not mastered but I admire it deeply. I have a spoken-word CD written and have every intention of recording it someday. Today I love Sarah Kay and Andrea Gibson. They are both emotionally driven and extremely powerful in their words and performances. They reach a younger generation with an intense fluency that is to be aspired to. They speak about difficult social issues but also speak with a genuine heart that reminds us of our humanity--something that I believe makes for an extraordinary poet.


What were your career choices that got you to this point in your life?

I spent over fifteen years in the corporate world. I've been in banking, marketing, and worked at a series of non-profits. At the time I didn't realize it, but all of those adventures led me to, and prepared me for, today. Each employer offered training, whether it be in budgeting, strategy, or dealing with a layoff that brought me to a stronger place and made me much more effective in my current position. For writing, these are all my breadcrumbs. My poetry or even my novel is a living journal that leaves pieces of where I was at that point in my life. Each story has another story. I was laid off in 2010 for the second time since the major economic crisis that started in 2008. I was tired of being a slave to everyone else's companies and decided to take a risk and see what I could build on my own.
I had been writing off and on since I was ten and it came and went in phases. In 2010 I published my first poetry book with a small press. That experience gave me an opportunity to learn and discover what I thought was done right and what wasn't. I didn't ever walk away thinking I could do it better, but appreciated the opportunity to learn in the process. I needed to stay close to writing as my words just seemed to take off. Doing publishing was that opportunity to keep it close, but also... maybe... down the road, feed my family. In 2011, Winter Goose Publishing was created.

What are your goals for Winter Goose?

To always be learning and growing. We are a traditional trade publisher, but only in the beginning stages of our growth. We don't do everything right, but at the same time we give everything we have to do the right thing. We want to always maintain a healthy author community and offer amazing books with variety so everyone can find something to love and connect with. Books are magic, and we want to bring that magic to you. My greatest influencer would be Graywolf Press. They're a non-profit, so a different model than us, but they put out Pulitzer Prize winners along with unique and daring works in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Were you challenged by an unsupportive little brother that teased you over your love of poetry?

No brothers. I have five sisters... yes five. I generally always had a certain amount of support for my poetry. I remember when I first started my website (2010) as a means to vent and a venue to share my poetry. I was terribly nervous over how it would be perceived. Partially because I wrote rather dark, but also because I had never publically shared it prior. I wasn't stable in my abilities at the time and had always just written for me and from an extremely honest place. I was shocked at how it took off and the community I quickly became a part of. Within six months I was offered my first publishing contract by a small press on the east coast. From there, everything changed.

Any advice to an aspiring poet?

Be honest and don't force it. You can always tell when a poem is forced. Genuineness resonates most with poetry. Even if the poem isn't perceived as generally "good," if it's honest, it will emotionally connect with someone.