The Monthly interviews poet, writer and educator, Patricia Jacobs Reyes – Part 2 – Writing from a feminist perspective

Part one of this interview is here

Do you write about the lives of women?

I certainly didn’t think about writing from any particular perspective, but at Church I was being asked to write material for events geared towards women. These events have included Women’s History Month. Many of my pieces therefore evoke experiences that women have had and reflect themes from a feminist perspective. I never realized that until someone suggested that I do write from a feminist perspective.

The Church seems to play a major role in your journey. Would it be accurate to suggest that the Church is as much a cultural and community institution as it is a spiritual institution?

The Church is very much an integral part of the Black experience not just where I come from and where I live, but globally. There is a sense in which many people are raised in the Church. That was certainly the case with my early life in Jamaica and I have continued to be active in the Church.

I would opine that even if people don’t maintain that active participation, the impact of the Church remains and probably in most cases the Church has certainly helped to shape their lives.

With regards to my writing though, it isn’t church based. It is much wider than that. I aim to create a universal appeal, presenting life in general with its beauty, and yes, with its ugliness as well.

What have you been working on recently?

I have been working on a collection of poems entitled Quilted Grace. The overarching theme is the matter of grace. This particular work is autobiographical and biographical and so in most of the pieces I tell stories.

The collection starts with childhood memories such as the games children used to play, and moves through the experiences and vicissitudes of life framed against the background of the triumph of the human spirit.

There is therefore a narrative base of lived experiences – of love, grief, rejection, and transcending euphoric experiences of forgiveness and joy.

What about the forms and structures?

I am using many different forms and structures – concrete poems, sonnets, villanelles, rondeau, tanka, to name a few. I have also represented a potpourri of cultures including the Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and of course Jamaican cultures.

Why are you working with so many forms?

I am using these many different poetic forms and styles because I am hoping this will allow the work to have an appeal beyond persons who just want to read the poetry for enjoyment. Of course nothing is wrong with that but I aim to have a collection that can also be used as an informational and educational tool. So I am also pitching the work to the world of the academia among other audiences.

Is conveying the importance of craft one of your aims?

I think that there has to be more than just saying what one feels. There is work to be done in finding the language that offers the reader, or the person listening to the poem, more than just raw feelings, and so there is the matter of structure and also delivery.

I am looking at the thought process behind the writing. Do the words I choose allow the reader to engage with the subject matter? Do they transport the reader to an understanding beyond what he or she already has? Do the structures and forms I choose offer an element of discipline to the writing? Poetry, I think, must elevate thought and must be a vehicle that adequately conveys raw emotions and ideas.

Where to now?

I am aiming to complete and publish Quilted Grace in a few months. I have another group of poems, predominantly about women, that won’t be in this collection. I intend to use them to form the basis for another collection.

I am also working on establishing an online consultancy that will offer courses on writing, on poetry and on public speaking. People should be able to access that service soon. I have plenty to keep me busy.

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