Jason Gordon Talks About How Teaching & Being a Dad Inspires His Writing
We published three of Jason Gordon’s poems here. Below is an interview with him about his poetry, process, and graduate programs.
JV: I notice you make declarative statements in your poetry. (For example: “The future is broken,” or “My eye isn’t naked”). Why is this?
JG: Thinking about this question, I began to imagine the speakers of my poems as crazy people standing on street corners, ranting and raving about the end of the world. As long as they wholeheartedly believe in what they are saying, it’s hard to ignore them.
I suppose that’s the effect I’m going for in these poems: to have incredible strength of conviction while stating seemingly ridiculous things.
What was your experience like as an MFA student in Maryland? Did you feel part of a community?
I know that many people feel that an MFA is not a necessary step in one’s writing career, but for me, it was essential.
First and foremost I owe a lot to the Faculty for their wisdom.
Second, the MFA program introduced me to a writing community that I don’t know I would have found otherwise. I attended parties, readings and other social functions, meeting many interesting people whose opinions regarding poetry and even life in general I continue to seek and value. I was also introduced to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, which I attended a few years ago.
That said, I’ll admit that I often feel like a loner when it comes to writing. After all, I spend most of my time writing by myself. I do, however, make an effort every once in a while to go to a conference or attend AWP or something of the like.
How do you feel teaching affects your writing? There is so much debate over whether teaching is draining for poets, or enriches the craft. Obviously, it depends on the person; where do you think you fall on the spectrum?
I love being a teacher as much as I like writing poetry. I have a passion for it; it challenges me, rewards me, and there are certainly days when I come home completely drained and exhausted.
But I write best when I’m exhausted.
Plus, if I didn’t teach, I don’t think I’d be well-rounded enough to write good poetry.
I also must add that I have stolen many great lines from the weird stuff my students say.
Your poems are deeply image based. Reading them, I often felt I was wading through an ocean swarming with bees, snails, & covered in grasses and TV’s. Other than poetry, what inspires you?
Movies inspire me, especially horror movies.
TV inspires me, especially the History Channel and Cops for some reason.
Theoretical Physics inspires me (black holes, the Big Bang, parallel universes, etc.).
The weird stuff my children say inspires me.
The weird stuff my students say inspires me.
People-watching inspires me.
What are you reading right now?
My top three right now for poetry are Jamal May’s new book, Hum, Heather Christle’s book, The Trees The Trees, and Ben Mirov’s chapbook, Ghost Poems.
I’m also into Nami Mun’s novel, Miles from Nowhere.
Finally, I have two small children, so I read lots of Dr. Seuss. He’s the greatest.
Editor's Note: This interview appeared on our old site.
Jason Gordon received an MFA from the University of Maryland, as well as a scholarship to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. His poems have appeared in Abbey, Bathtub Gin, the Delmarva Review, Poetry International, and Presa, among others. His first chapbook, I Stole a Briefcase, was published by Pudding House Press in 2008. Currently, he lives in Catonsville, Maryland. He teaches English at a middle school for children with dyslexia.
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (ELJ Publications, 2016) & Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and is the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes, Poetry and the managing editor for Civil Coping Mechanisms and Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared in Prelude, BUST, Spork Press, The Feminist Wire, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets. joannavalente.com / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente