Wednesday, June 14, 2023

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Jayson Keery

Jayson Keery is based in Western Massachusetts, where they completed their MFA in poetry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. They are the author of The Choice is Real (Metatron Press, 2023) and the chapbook Astroturf (o•blēk editions, 2022). They have been anthologized in Mundus Press’s Nocturnal Properties, Nightboat Books' We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics, and Pilot Press London's A Queer Anthology of Rage. They received the 2022 Metatron Press Prize for Rising Authors, selected by Fariha Róisín, and the 2021 Daniel and Merrily Glosband MFA Fellowship, selected by Wendy Xu. A complete list of publications, awards, and interviews live online at

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Well, I just published my first book, The Choice Is Real (Metatron Press) so I’m currently in the ~ life-changing ~ process. What can I say? It feels good! And also a lot of the book’s content is intimate/ previously emotionally repressed, so knowing all that is out in the world is pretty charged. But the act of publicly sharing has the effect of normalizing the content. Maybe normalizing is the wrong word, but you catch my drift. Like, this all happened. Now it’s in a book. It’s fine.

My past writing was mainly comedic memoir, and I think you can see traces of that in my poetics. My work is still funny, but I also began working with grief and heavier topics.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
At a certain point, I realized that the comedic memoir I was writing wasn’t quite prose, so I felt an obligation to start studying poetry. You know, poetry is one of those arts where people think they can write it without reading it, and I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted to respect the community I was entering. I never expected to get so deep into it, but here I am. I’m obsessed!

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?
Oh, I take an insane amount of notes, then I transfer those notes to notecards and hang the notecards on the wall. I’m a very slow and physical writer. I need to write by hand and be able to visualize everything before I put it on the page. Sometimes a poem will pop right out of the notes, and I’ll only make minor edits. Other times I could be working on a poem for years.

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?
The Choice Is Real started off as somewhat disparate poems that emerged from what I was feeling strongly about on any given day. Then themes appeared (choice, Disney, shit talk, etc), so I shaped poems around them.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

Oh my god. I’d be lost without readings. I do them all the time. And I use them to grow in my practice. I take note of the audience's reactions. I make little marks on the page so that I can go home and edit the poems based on those reactions.

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?
The Choice Is Real is in many ways trying the resist the question of choice in queerness. Queer and trans people are pressured into writing narratives that justify the idea that their queerness is not a choice, often leaning into the born-this-way assertion. My book is kind of like, Who cares? Why be so focused on justifying how we got here as opposed to focusing on the fact that we are here? The Choice Is Real also questions a lot of assumptions surrounding queer relationality in general. Lots of rude uprooting.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Do they even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
Big questions. Small answer: To me, the role of the writer is to help the reader locate aspects of themselves that they wouldn’t have otherwise discovered. When I’m reading, it’s all about relating or not relating, both of which help me to clarify myself. It’s all about me!

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I love an outside editor. I take nothing personally and say no when I need to. But yeah, poetry can be a weird thing to edit so you really need someone who knows how to tap into your flow.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
The people worth loving are the people you don’t have to prove your worth to. I don’t even know who said this to me. (Maybe it was me!) My book is partially about this. If we feel like we’re having to prove ourselves, something’s wrong in the dynamic.

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?
My routine fluctuates (and I like that it does) but I write every day. I feel like if you write every day for a few months, you start to feel off if you don’t write one day. I have the same relationship with running. I built the habit, and I go nuts without it!

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Books, of course! My writing gets stalled every single day and so every single day I pick up a book to get it flowing again. I’ll actually close my eyes and run my hands along the shelf until I feel heat and then pick that book to take inspiration from. I don’t know. It works.

12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
The smell of a dog’s ear.

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?
I’d say other than books, the art of conversation influences my work the most. I love paying close attention to people’s cadences and reactions. My poetry feels conversational to me, yeah.

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Oh, I don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll shout out the writers who wrote my blurbs because I have the amazing fortune of knowing my favorite authors: Peter Gizzi, Ocean Vuong, Cameron Awkward-Rich, and CAConrad. I re-read their work all the time.

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

Travel literally anywhere. I’ve only ever lived in Massachusetts and don’t leave much. I like that about myself, but could stand to get out once in a while. Relatedly, I have this fantasy that a wealthy, mature Disney Dyke will take me to Disney World someday. So if that’s you and you’re out there, hit me up!

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 was an arts/events coordinator. A kind of glorified party planner, I guess. I love to throw a party! I’ve partied maybe a little too much in my time. :/

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
What I’m about to say is ironic because I wrote a book called The Choice Is Real, but it felt like I never had a choice but to write. It’s the only thing that regulates my nervous system. It’s the only thing I consistently feel compelled to do. I’ve never even cared whether or not I was good at it. I just do it all the time.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
A Queen In Bucks County by Kay Gabriel. I just re-watched Only Lovers Left Alive, directed by Jim Jarmusch.

19 - What are you currently working on?
I’m writing a series of letters to the men I’ve dated. I love how humiliating it feels!

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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