Interview with Jessie Lynn McMains (Bone & Ink Press) from Fevers of the Mind Anthology (2019)

Jessie Lynn McMains | Reckless Chants
Hi Jessie,

Thanks for the interview.  I have read some of your poetry & have seen your
 ideas for numerous chapbooks & zines, and in ways I think we are working
 in the same circle for the most part in uniting people through poetry.

Q1: How do you stay motivated, or keep hungry to edit zines as well as putting
 out creative works yourself? What motivates you, or what about poetry/writing helps you explore what you are most passionate about?

Jessie: I honestly am not sure how I stay motivated. Being the editor and publisher of both an online magazine and a small press as well as trying to find the time for my own writing is exhausting and frequently demoralizing. I have too much to do and not enough time to do it, and about twice a week I have mini freakouts where I think “I’m gonna quit it all!” I say this not as a complaint but as an honest statement of how difficult it is. I suppose what keeps me going with both writing and publishing is that these are the things I feel most powerfully called to do. All I have ever wanted to do is make art/be an artist. Over the course of my life, I have had training or experience in pretty much every form of art, but writing is the one I’ve focused most on, the one that’s been there for me when nothing else has. And running a press and magazine is an extension of that—since I got into zines at a very young age, I’ve always been publishing other people’s work as well as my own, and when I was 16 I vowed that one day I’d have my own small press like Henry Rollins did with 2.13.61. So writing my own stuff, and helping other people get their writing out into the world, are the things I am best at, and I do them because I have to.

Q2: You have strong passions in regards to writing and influencing poetry in the LGBTQ community, How good does it feel when your editing someone’s work,
 and you can feel the piece is making a statement and not just words?

I do have 2 siblings whom are both poets/writers in their spare time as well. They haven’t always had as many writers to choose from to draw influence.  What works of yours or others from your past books, zines, would you recommend the most to those looking for strength to being their “strongest” self and draw out the most confidence in who they are?

 Jessie: I don’t consciously choose to publish pieces that make a statement. I find writing that’s overly didactic, or preachy, or feels like it’s beating me over the head with a message—even if it’s one I agree with—pretty boring. What I look for are pieces that tell the author’s stories and truths and tell them well, in a way that grips me or surprises me. By stories I don’t necessarily mean clear narratives, and by truths I don’t mean facts. I mean that my favorite pieces feel to me like the writer had to write this particular piece, like there was something in there they needed to say, and by extension, the reader needed to hear. In that case, I suppose they are making statements, in a way. My aim as an editor is never to overwrite the author’s vision, but to help them tell their truths in the best way they can.

As for other people’s work I’ve published that I wish I’d had access to when I was younger, here’s a very short list, in no particular order:

from the bathroom at the union transfer, by Rebecca Kokitus (
Crisis Counseling: Intake, by Kristin Ryan (
(en)gender fluid, by Marilee Goad (
I love all the pieces I’ve published, but the above are the three I feel the most personal connection to. If you wanted to know all the authors and pieces that have encouraged me to be my truest self, not just the ones I’ve published, the list would be a lot longer.

Q3: Obviously you’re a fan of classic rock with your themed editions of your zines. A fan of Bruce Springsteen, and I believe I saw Thin Lizzy mentioned as well.  What role does music play in coming up with lines to your poetic works? Do you have many music thematically based zines throughout the years?

Jessie: I am a fan of a lot of classic rock. I’m also a fan of punk and indie rock, and ska and reggae, and soul, folk, country, jazz, cabaret, classical, opera, pop, weird unclassifiable stuff. I love music and it is one of my biggest inspirations. I often riff off lyrics when coming up with poetic lines, or I listen to instrumental pieces and try to fit the cadence or form of the poem to the rhythm or feeling of the piece.

I’ve published quite a few musically-themed issues of my own personal zines and books I’ve self-published. Even the ones that aren’t musically themed have music threaded throughout because, as I said, it is one of my biggest inspirations. Both my newest chapbooks are music-oriented—TGWTMC is all poems inspired by Courtney Love, and ftfafm references all kinds of ‘90s songs. As far as compilation zines or books that are musically themed, the Springsteen anthology is my first. I’ve tried, twice, to publish a Clash-themed fanzine, but the first time I put out a call I got five submissions, and the second time I got…zero. Maybe I’ll try again in the future, though I think I know who I wanna pay tribute to with an anthology next, and it’s not The Clash.

I also have a few other music-themed projects in the works, both personally and with Bone & Ink Press. Personally, I’m working on a chapbook inspired by Lou Reed/his music. And two of the first chapbooks B&I is publishing in the fall are inspired by musical figures—Alex DiFrancesco’s Bird is the Word takes its inspiration from Iggy Pop (and his pet bird, Biggy Pop), and Marion Deal’s Cool Talks, Dead I Guess was inspired by Jim Morrison.


Q4: Top 5 Bruce Springsteen songs? I obviously enjoy the Born to Run, Dancing In the Dark, I’m on Fire, but there is this song Highway 29 I seem to enjoy the most from the Ghost of Tom Joad.  A little bit lesser known over all.  *Since publication Candy's Room & the River have become favorites*

In no particular order, and subject to change—except the first one, which is forever my all-time favorite Boss tune:

Atlantic City
Dancing in the Dark
No Surrender
Thunder Road

Q5: I’ve grown up in the Midwest (besides a year living in New Orleans in 1999) all my life.  Living in Southern Indiana & Western Kentucky there is always many people you run into who aren’t always open minded.  You live in Wisconsin, correct? How much does your environment play in coming up with ideas for a story or poem?

Jessie: Yes, I live in Wisconsin. I have lived in the midwest on and off for most of my life—I was born in Lansing, Michigan and lived the first part of my childhood in various Michigan towns (mostly Flint), I’ve lived in two different Wisconsin cities (Racine, which is my current location, and Milwaukee), and I lived in Chicago, Illinois for five years. I’ve also lived in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia area) and California (Oakland).

To answer your question—environment is hugely important to me when coming up with ideas. In fact, after music and nostalgia, places are my next biggest inspiration. Places I’ve lived, places I’ve traveled to, I’m obsessed with places. I often find myself writing about whatever place I miss most at the time (whether that’s a city I haven’t visited in years or a local bar that’s now closed). Sometimes I’ll just look through photographs (either ones I’ve taken or ones by other people) of places I’ve known and get inspired to write. Other times, if I’m feeling uninspired, I take a walk through my neighborhood or a drive out into the countryside to see what I can see and then write from that.

Q6: I’ve been writing seriously since around 2001, and just in the last year at 38 years old began self-publishing books and now the Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Art Digest bookzine. I went a few years without writing much at all between 2012 and 2016.  (getting married, becoming a Father) then in 2016 my dad got sick with ALS and passed away on Christmas Night.  I began to write more seriously again, and then returned to reading in public again.  Having Generalized Anxiety Disorder it doesn’t make things easy at times, and fears of sending my own work to presses and zines.    All of this is to lead to the question When did you begin reading aloud, writing seriously, submitting to presses and zines, and inevitably deciding to begin your own zine?

Jessie: I’ve been doing all those things since the ‘90s. I got my first poetry acceptance from a magazine right around the same time I first made a zine of my own—both when I was 12. By 13 I had a monthly column in my town’s newspaper, at 14 my first book was published, and by 15 I was reading my poems at local open mic nights. I’m not trying to brag, here; in fact doing all that at such a young age means I get down on myself for not being more successful/further along in my career. But then I remind myself that my stuff now is very different from my stuff then, and the name I publish under has changed multiple times over the years, so in effect it’s like I’ve had three or four separate writing careers. Not to mention the years when I was still writing but not sending anything out for publication, either because of bad times in my life or just because I was focused on other stuff.


Q7: I absolutely love the piece Lilac Palace, 1987 which I read from Kissing Dynamite. Which style of writing do you prefer writing in? A prose, poetic, Sonnet, or fictionally?


Jessie: I love writing in all styles, honestly. Sometimes I get an image or idea and just start riffing on it, not sure whether it’s going to be poetry or prose, fiction or non, and the piece sorta dictates its own form. I’ve gone through different phases with my writing, where I’ve focused more on one style or genre. These days, I mainly write poetry and things that fall vaguely under the poetry umbrella but are hybrids of fiction, essay, and poetry. That’s one reason I love poetry—there are fewer hard-fast rules than there are in other genres. You can tell a story without having to follow a strict narrative like you’re supposed to in fiction, and you can write about your own life without having to stay tied to absolute fact like you’re supposed to in non-fiction.

Q8: How did you become known as Rust Belt Jessie? Do you read as Rust Belt Jessie, or is this more for online reasons?

Jessie: I christened myself Rust Belt Jessie about eight and a half years ago. I’ve lived in the rust belt all my life except for my two years in California, and I became even more obsessed by it when I lived in California because I was so homesick. While I still lived out there, I gave myself a stick & poke tattoo on my left wrist, that says “Rust Belt,” and at the time I was looking for a new pen name and thought of Rust Belt Jessie. I mostly use it for online reasons, and for fun. It’s not a pseudonym—I publish as Jessie Lynn McMains—but I’m Jessie Lynn McMains aka Rust Belt Jessie.


Q9: When did you begin Bone & Ink Press?  What do you think has been your best or most talked about issue so far?


Jessie: I began Bone & Ink Press in early 2017, to publish the collaborative chapbook I wrote with my friend Misha Bee Speck. From the get go, I knew I’d eventually publish books by other people and start a lit mag as well. As I said above, I’d been planning on one day starting my own press since I was 16. In early 2018 I said now is the time and opened Bone & Ink Press up for submissions and also put out a call for the first issue of Bone & Ink Literary Magazine. I can’t decide which issue has been the best—I’ve loved all of them and I think they keep getting better and better. Our most read and talked about issues have probably been Vol. 4 (June/July 2018) and Vol. 6 (October 2018, the Halloween issue).


Q11: Suggest some Lydia Lunch songs I should look for.

Jessie: I’d suggest checking out everything she did with Teenage Jesus & The Jerks. I also love the cover of “Some Velvet Morning” she did with Roland S. Howard and the cover of “Heart Attack and Vine” she did for the East of Sunset soundtrack.


Thanks for the interview


BIO from 2019: Jessie Lynn McMains (they/them) is a poet, writer, zine-maker, small press publisher, and spoken word performer. They are the author of multiple chapbooks, most recently The Girl With The Most Cake and forget the fuck away from me. They have been publishing their own and others’ writing in zines and chapbooks since 1994, and have been performing their work across the US and Canada since 1997. They were the 2015-2017 Poet Laureate of Racine, WI,  they/she / writer / recipient of 2019 Hal Prize for Poetry / The Loneliest Show On Earth coming Feb. 2020 from @BottlecapPress websites working with include: ,  or follow them on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram @rustbeltjessie

By davidlonan1

David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof Facebook: DavidLONan1

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