INTERVIEW WITH Jessica Cuello
What is the name of the piece that you have in Grabbed?
What was the inspiration for your piece? What compelled you to write it?
I have been a public school teacher for 24 years. Schools are still very stuck in the 19th century. They have an authoritarian-loving mode that's tied to the rigid, factory-like structure. Many young people are lost, unheard, and unprotected in schools. This poem is also about the way that young people engage with persecutors--often with empathy and identification. For children, there is always that question of why they are chosen; usually it's because there is something vulnerable or neglected in the child's circumstance. It's confusing because attention can feel good to a child who already feels invisible.
As a writer, do you feel obliged to share difficult experiences?
Difficult (especially unspoken) experiences often become poems; poetry as an art form allows for the language that exists outside of everyday experience. Shame often lacks a language. Of course, poetry is part fiction; our narrators are part of us, but no one should assume they are us. And some experiences always seem to elude being written about directly.
Reading has healed and empowered me since I was small because of its intimate nature; it offers access to the private imagination of someone else that day-to-day life does not provide. To create an entire anthology on a taboo subject is very important. Nothing like it existed when I was a young woman. When you can't read about experiences, you believe yourself to be alien, isolated by your very existence.
Jessica Cuello is the author of Hunt (The Word Works, 2017) and Pricking (Tiger Bark Press, 2016). She has been awarded The 2017 CNY Book Award, The 2016 Washington Prize, The New Letters Poetry Prize, a Saltonstall Fellowship, and most recently, The New Ohio Review Poetry Prize. Her poems can be found in American Literary Review, Plume, On the Seawall, Missouri Review, Tinderbox, and Los Angeles Review. She is a poetry editor at Tahoma Literary Review.
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