Vanessa Jimenez Gabb is the author of the chapbooks midnight blue (Porkbelly Press, 2015) and Weekend Poems (dancing girl press, 2014). Her first full-length poetry manuscript, Images for Radical Politics, was the Editor's Choice for Rescue Press' 2015 Black Box Poetry Prize and is forthcoming. She is the co-founder of Five Quarterly and teaches at Newark Academy. She is from and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
1 - How did your first chapbook or book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different? My first chapbook gave me hope. I look forward to what my first book will bring.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction? I came to fiction first, actually. I've also always thought in images, and then I took a Deborah Digges' course in college, "Dickinson, Bishop, and Plath". And it was over.
3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes? I definitely write in my head as I go but don't get it out as regularly as I would like to and should. When I finally sit down to it, it can come quickly then, but sometimes it doesn't.
4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning? Definitely the former.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings? I get a bit of anxiety around readings but I am always glad I do them. I do love hearing others read too.
6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are? I feel like I'm always considering questions of longing.
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be? I'd like to think the eternal role is to declare.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)? I'm looking forward to the experience!
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)? I was watching an episode of The Affair the other night and one character basically says to the other, Don't make the mistake of wanting someone to understand everything about you, thinking they fail you somehow, that it's not true love. There will always be something about them that baffles you. No one gets all the help they need. But being with someone makes it a little less lonely. And that makes a big difference. It was just a striking thing for me to hear in that moment, on that day.
10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin? It's generally all over the place. I'm at work early and get home late, so whenever I can. Once I get going with something that seems promising, I'm impatient and try to get to it as often as I can.
11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration? I listen more closely. I read.
12 - What fragrance reminds you of home? Rice and beans cooking.
13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art? Yes, all those, everything. You can trust a writer with anything.
14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work? I always look forward to the work of my peers, who I'm always looking to to show me the way. I always look back to the books that have been with me a long time, that I'm always looking to to show me the way: The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Love in the Time of Cholera immediately come to mind.
15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done? Improve my Spanish and go to Colombia, where my mother is from. We're going in August and I'm on that Duolingo. I know it's going to affect me so much and I can't wait.
16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer? I'd love to be a chef!
17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else? Honestly it was the only thing that ever felt natural to me.
18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film? Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee moved me utterly and Seth Landman's Confidence is a book I wish I had written. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution was dope.
19 - What are you currently working on? A long love poem.