Reflective of Play: An Interview with Featured Author Jessamyn Birrer

Jessamyn Birrer’s poems, “Redshift,” “Greensleeves” and “Tocsin, Siren, Chime” are featured in our summer issue. We asked her a few questions about craft, and here are her replies.

Q: Do you have any super secret rituals that help your writing process?

A: I suppose the cheeky answer is that if I had a secret ritual I certainly wouldn’t disclose it here. In actuality, while I do not practice any particular rituals, I do have certain writing habits. For example, I tend to write in the early morning, in the hours just after midnight, and then revisit it in the afternoon. While going about my day I often write down snatches of thought “for later,” but when I set to writing an actual poem I write straight through until it feels like a whole (albeit knowingly raw, unfinished, etc.).

Q: When did you first become serious about writing? Do you have other artistic talents?

A: It really depends on what is meant by “serious.” While poetry grapples with and evokes all the light and shadow of human experience, nonetheless for me it is fundamentally reflective of play—play with language, mind, image, heart. So in one sense I have always been serious about writing, and in another I can never be.

As for other artistic talents, I studied ballet for years, and currently I knit and sew.

Q: What do you think the future of the printed word will be in the next 50 years?

A: I prefer hope to prophecy, so: I hope that the printed word will remain, though it continue to change, as it has always changed. When I write (or read) I use both digital and printed media. I wouldn’t want to privilege one over the other, or lose either.

Q: What’s your writing mantra?

A: I haven’t got a writing mantra, but I do believe in the epistemology of writing, and I love Adrienne Rich’s line suggesting that poetry is the dream of a common language.

Q: What’s your most important writing accoutrement?

A: I like bold 10 pt. G2 gel pens in blue or black, my iPad mini, and soft, lined paper.


Jessamyn Birrer is an autism advocate, technical writing instructor, and poet. Her poems can be found or are forthcoming in Illuminations, Ninth Letter, and The Best American Poetry 2015. She lives and writes in Klamath Falls, Oregon.