DE MILLER JACKSON
May 25, 2011. The day I conducted my very first-ever interview. It was my total delight to choose De Miller Jackson as my first interviewee. It is with even greater delight that I once again honor De with another “first” here at Poetic Bloomings: our first-ever follow-up interview! I simply had to re-visit De now that she has been bestowed the coveted titled of Writer’s Digest Poetic Asides 2012 Poet Laureate.
MARIE ELENA: So, welcome back, De! Can you believe it has actually been over a year and a half since our initial interview?
DE: Wow! Has it really been that long? I love that you guys have been going that long, growing so strong, and have cultivated such an awesome group of amazing poets. I don’t spend enough time in this beautiful place, that’s for sure. When I do, there’s such a sense of camaraderie and serenity. Thanks so much for having me back.
MARIE ELENA: Thanks, De! Yes, it is hard to believe it’s been that long. At the time, I asked if you consider yourself a “poet.” Here is a quote from your response: “Ha. That’s a tough question. Sometimes. I do like that you can be unpublished and call yourself a poet, while you’re supposedly not an “author” until you’ve sold something. I’ve always considered myself a writer, and I’ve tried my hand at poetry since I could pick up a pen…but I think the title itself comes tough sometimes.” Since that time, you have published an impressive body of work, and were chosen by Robert Lee Brewer as Writer’s Digest Poetic Asides 2012 co-Poet Laureate (with Brian Slusher). WOW. You’ve come a long way, baby! So, NOW do you consider yourself a poet?
DE: Do I consider myself a poet? Yes. And I think I’ve always known I was a poet at heart, no matter what else I was doing (waiting tables, writing ad copy, wrangling kids). But I’ve definitely received more outward validation of that fact this past year than ever before. I’m so grateful. My husband bought me a bracelet for my birthday that says “Poet,” and he gave it to me early, the night the Laureate news came through. Some days I wear it outward, to tell the world. But some days I still need to wear it so I can read the word, rub the letters with my fingers, remind myself it’s simply true.
MARIE ELENA: Another quote from our previous interview: “The administrative side of writing both flummoxes and frustrates me. I just want to sit around and play with the pretty words.” And I must say De, I don’t know anyone who “plays with pretty words” better than you. With every interview, I choose to share a poem written by our guest that I particularly like. With your work, I could close my eyes and point, and would feel no less than utterly satisfied with my choice. That said, I’d like to share your “Worrier Poet.”
WORRIER POET (by De Miller Jackson)
See, the trouble is, our workplace
is the heart and we all know what an
inhospitable environment that is. When
doubt screams and inner critic steams,
we stand tall and begin to fall and we hold
our breaths and wait for the stars to
align just right, wait for the caffeine to
kick in, wait for rain or bow or sorrow or
the scarlet scrim of sunset or the ebony
of death’s whisper, or for the moon
to glow in such a way that
the words are knocked
loose…and then we
shed our salt to the sound of indifferent
crickets. We kill our trees and channel
breeze and hope there’s more
to this than word drops that fall as they
may, rebel phrase that wants to hear it
-self sing. We fling our skins, drink deep
our ink, starve ourselves silly and get
desperate and sell out and come
crawling back smelling like new money
and regret. We fret over period or comma,
climb stanzas in multi-syllabic slatherings
of fingerbeat and tongue. We love it well,
and it rarely loves us back, but we clack
that black because our heartbeat tells us so,
and we fight and fly and wrestle and write
……………………….…because it’s all we know.
MARIE ELENA: *sigh*… Your poetry consistently makes me want to speak softly the biblical term Selah (pause and consider). No wonder you were chosen Poet Laureate. And I must say, I called it. Plus this: do I know how to choose my poetic friends, or what?! No less than two laureates in the house at the moment! So tell me, De, how does it feel to be chosen for such a coveted title?
DE: I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor. I’m thrilled, of course. I’m also still a little insecure about what article to stick in front of it, though. The other day my hubbie called me “The Poet Laureate,” and I argued with him that I am “A Poet Laureate” – since I share the title with Brian. I think I’m just gonna skip the article all together, like you did above, and go with “Poet Laureate.” And with a brilliant co-laureate like Brian, and so many talented souls at PA, I couldn’t be in better company.
MARIE ELENA: I couldn’t agree more. What has it done for your confidence as a writer?
DE: Honestly, it’s still sinking in. I haven’t jumped right in and submitted a manuscript to a major publishing house or anything. (Yet.) 😉 But it’s a tremendous honor, and something I will always cherish. I think my confidence as a writer ebbs and flows no matter what. Not the confidence to put something down on the page, which I can’t really keep myself from doing, but the tenacity and audacity to put it all out there, and hope someone reads, understands, loves the words the way I do. That’s hard, and I have a lot of inner voices that tend to tell me it’s not worth it, that my work isn’t worth anything. But God made me a Poet, and as that I’ve really only got one job – to honor Him with it. I can’t do that if I listen to my own inner critic. So I guess right now I’m moving forward with His confidence at the helm. I’m honored by the title, but it doesn’t make me a more legitimate poet. I am who I am, and I couldn’t stop writing if I tried, and there are always bruises and badges and lumps and laurels and hinges and hiccups that go with that. I’m trying to learn to accept them all with grace, and open hands.
MARIE ELENA: You truly do live the very essence of your chosen mantra — Psalm 61:8: “I’ll be the poet who sings your glory, and live what I sing every day.”
Another question I had asked you in your original interview with us is this: Do you have plans for a book of poetry? And again, here is a quote from your response: “I wouldn’t have the slightest idea where to begin, but the prospect of my own little poem book does excite me. I’m just waiting for a healthy kick of audacity, I suppose.” As far as I know, you do not have a “little poem book” in the works as of yet. Am I mistaken? If so, please tell us about it. If not, it seems at least you got somewhat of a “boot,” since you went from being unpublished to published. Who booted you, and how hard?
DE: I guess that depends on your definition of “in the works.” I’m toying with some ideas, and I’m writing daily. But I am creative chaos personified, and I’m still intimidated by the process of pulling together even a chapbook. It’s next, though. Definitely. It’s a necessary step, and I need to take it. Someday. Soon. Seriously. You all keep booting me about the book, softly and in the kindest, friendliest, but most persistent manner. Eventually I will listen. I swear. Hopefully by the time I do, I might still have a potential buyer or two.
As far as going from unpublished to published, I suppose last May, I finally booted myself (and this is every bit as awkward and difficult to do as it sounds), with a Submission a Day challenge. Then in October, Khara House kicked me a bit more with her October Submit-O-Rama challenge ( http://www.kharahouse.com/p/submit-o-rama.html). I highly, highly recommend the intensity of a submission challenge to any writer – taking submissions every bit as seriously as you do writing, at least for a short, intense period of time. I plan to do it at least three times each year, moving forward.
MARIE ELENA: Tell us more about “SAD.” Was it your own idea? It intimidated me at the time, and I did not participate. Of course, now I wish I had. Can you tell us how you went about choosing which poems to send to whom for possible publication? How many acceptances did you receive that very month?
DE: SAD stands for Submission A Day. Last May, some of us from Poetic Asides got together on Facebook and championed each other along, commiserated, and just generally hung out in a little writer’s corner, encouraging each other. When April’s Poem a Day Challenge ended, I started thinking hey, if I can write a poem a day (which I had actually done since January 1st), why can’t I submit at least one a day? I told everybody what I was up to, and lots of folks joined in, with Pearl Ketover Prilik as our head cheerleader (which she does so very well). We were “Happy to be SAD” together. It was a ton of fun, and yes, I got some acceptances that very month. To ask me to tally them would be to ask me to be both administrative and mathematical. Since I know you know my numbness (and numbskullness) for numbers, I know you wouldn’t do that. I do know that this past year in total, around 60 poems have been accepted by about 30 different print and online journals. And I got paid $1 for one, which makes me a paid poet, right?
MARIE ELENA: 60 poems in 30 different journals! How impressive! I’m thrilled for you, and inspired! Advice I need to heed, indeed. 😉
It’s hard for me to fathom anyone in their right mind turning down your work. When you received rejections, did you have a good idea of why they rejected your poems?
DE: I received dozens of rejections (and they’re still coming in), and…nope. Do we ever? I think all you can do is do the best research you can. As someone who is still quite a novice at this, I used Duotrope (I’ve read they’ve since gone to a fee basis for their services, so I’ll most likely be purchasing Poet’s Market soon.) I read through the offerings, read what they had published in the past, chose poems of my own I felt fit the bill, and then push send. When I’m in the zone, I just send out a ton of stuff. That was what Submission A Day in May was all about – playing the odds. If you send out a ton, surely someone will accept one. Some poems that have been rejected by one publication have been enthusiastically received by another. So much comes into play: strategy, subject matter, form, timing, luck. All you can do is blow those seeds out there, and hope some stick.
MARIE ELENA: You already know I adore your work. I’m curious which of your own poems you would choose to share as one of your own personal favorites, and why.
DE: This was written in Lake Tahoe, just about my favorite place on the planet, and where my soul tends to reside (sometimes I can coax her home with me, but not always). I often say I write (and breathe) best with inky fingers and salty sea-soaked toes, and it’s so true.
Cobalt Majesty (by De Miller Jackson)
Maker of perfect sky.
These pines and I
to Your heart.
The jays sing praise
as our lyric limbs raise
this breeze-breathed song
before You. Below, painted flow
poured just for me,
wandering wondering one,
in uneasy skin
but held within Your patient gaze
adoring arms. Take this day,
whisper your waves
of love over me. Count grains
of sand, fairy dust in my hands and
set me free
to be Yours.
MARIE ELENA: Selah …
De, we all know you are unsurpassed when it comes to “playing with the pretty words,” but do you still feel “flummoxed and frustrated” with the administrative side of writing?
DE: Oh, yes. I will always feel this way. I have no idea what I’m doing, really. But here’s what I’ve learned:
- Persistence pays off. Big time. Get busy, and play the odds.
- Perspiration is every bit as important as inspiration. Show up. Get dressed (for me this is yoga pants and a tank top), and get started. The one issue I’ve never had in the submission process is running out of poems to send out. Write. Every single day, if you possibly can.
- Don’t be afraid to write badly. You never know what might come next.
- Just keep swimming…just keep swimming…It’s all so subjective. You can’t take rejection personally. I’m sure this one will serve me well, when I’m trying to shop a book of some kind around.
MARIE ELENA: “Don’t be afraid to write badly.” Now THERE’S a unique bit of advice. 😉 But seriously, all of it makes sense. Thank you, De.
Your blog now has 581 “followers.” Wow. Did your new title boost your numbers, or had you already garnered such an impressive following? If becoming Poet Laureate had nothing to do with it, can you share your secret to success?
DE: Ha! I both LOVE, and am baffled by, the fact that you know this. I have been trying to figure out how many followers I have for over a year now. (Did I mention I am the least tech savvy person I know?) That number seems super high, and I’m not really sure where most of them are from, or where they are on a daily basis, since I generally get somewhere between 1-6 comments per poem. I’m flattered that I might have so many followers, but I truly treasure a handful or two, who have encouraged me so much along the way, and who inspire me every day. I had a rather healthy following for awhile when I was writing for larger sites like Poets United, dVerse and some others, but when I receive a kind comment from someone, I like to head over his or her way and return the favor. For awhile there, this (reading poems and commenting) was taking several hours a day. I simply don’t have the time right now to commit to that, so I’ve circled my wagons and kept only a few sites on the roster. If life slows down a little bit, ever, I may see some of those cyber faces again. In the meantime, I’m just happy to be making the time to write every day.
MARIE ELENA: I noticed that you are on Twitter (which I am not). How much time and energy do you put into Twitter (your own tweets, and following others)? Do you believe Twitter plays a role in boosting your blog following?
DE: First of all, apologies to anyone who has been “following” me on Twitter for the past year or so. I’m the lamest Twit ever. I got a Twitter account a few years ago, so I could “follow” my husband (who I would follow anywhere.) Then last April, I did Robert Lee Brewer’s Platform Challenge (http://robertleebrewer.blogspot.com/2012/04/april-platform-challenge-day-1.html), which featured one thing to do each day to promote yourself as a writer. Joining Twitter was one. I’m nothing if not obedient, so I dutifully resurrected my account, and for awhile I even sort of kept up. However, truth be told, I.am.terrible.at.it. With two crazy kids, real life kicks my butt on a daily basis. Add in an advertising client or two (I’m a freelance copywriter), poeming every day, working out, reading, spending time with my hubbie, and occasionally spending a few minutes connecting with friends and fellow poets on Facebook, and I simply don’t have/make/find the time (or desire) to keep up with Twitter. And my goal for the new year – for myself and my family – is actually to stare at screens less often, so that’s certainly not gonna help any. I know there are writers who leverage Twitter as a huge asset, and I admire and envy that. It just doesn’t feel like me.
MARIE ELENA: Since our first interview together, you’ve done others. In fact, it seems you are smeared all over the internet! In a good way, of course. How many interviews have you done, and where?
DE: Aaaaaaaaaah. **goes off to try to round up the interviews in the disorganized mass that is her creative chaos brain/computer files**
Okay, here we go…
First, I got to do a guest blogger spot for Heather Day Gilbert:
Then Meena Rose asked me (and who can say no to sweet Meena?):
Then I spent some time with the awesome Sherry Blue Sky over at Poets United:
Then Izy from Imaginary Garden With Real Toads asked me to hop by:
I think that’s all of them.
MARIE ELENA: Have you become more comfortable with the process? What do you like about it, and what would you rather avoid if you could?
DE: I actually do enjoy the process, since “interview” these days just means answering questions in writing. It’s a bit surreal, though, someone wanting to know things about you. I’m still very “Who, me? Why?” in my heart. It’s flattering, but so weird. It’s much harder being the interviewer, in my opinion. Marie, you are simply amazing at it, and I was so blessed by all who have interviewed me so far, too. One of Robert’s Platform Challenge days was to interview someone, and I chose Khara House (http://whimsygizmo.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/khara-house-interview/). I enjoyed it immensely, and Khara was such a good sport about it, but asking the questions is much more stressful for me than answering them.
MARIE ELENA: In our first interview together, I had not yet begun asking all our guests this all-important final question: If we could know only one thing about you, what would you tell us?
DE: I still ache to know myself. Every day. Someday, I’m gonna fall into the page just right, see the way a certain spill of words dances together, and finally think, “Ohhhhh. There she is.”
MARIE ELENA: Selah …
You may find more of De at http://whimsygizmo.wordpress.com/. I highly recommend “following” her blog. She posts almost daily, and I don’t want to miss one poem.
De’s original interview may be viewed at: http://poeticbloomings.com/2011/05/25/web-wednesday-de-miller-jackson-part-i/.