Q1: When did you start writing and your first influences?
James: My first memory of writing poetry was during a school trip. We stayed in a place called Borfa House and one afternoon we were tasked with writing poetry. My poem the sea cat at night was later published in a magazine or newspaper and I still have the original poem.
Q2: Who is/are your biggest influences today?
James: There are so many to name in truth. Since speaking to a poet from Swansea, Matthew M C Smith, I have met and spoken to loads of poets and writers. Reading their work, conversing with them and the support has led me to write in ways I did not think were possible.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing?
James: I grew up and still reside in Swansea. The city is very proud of its history and culture and Dylan Thomas’s influence is embedded into the town. The geography of the town also plays a part in my writing.
Q4: Have any travels from home influenced your work/describe?
James: In my profession and hobbies, I am lucky to do quite a bit of traveling and see lots of new places and people and they certainly find their way into my work.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be an artist/poet?
James: Since that moment on the school trip, I have always written. I never showed anyone my work and I thought it was just a hobby and would be nothing more. I tried to ignore but truthfully there were stories and poems inside of me that needed to be told to the world. I spoke to Matthew M C Smith and submitted my first poem.
Q6: Favorite activities when not writing?
James: Boxing, training in the gym, spending time with my family.
Q7: Any recent or upcoming promotional work you’d like to acknowledge?
James: I have just had a micro collection “the Thousand Ghosts of You” published with Alien Buddha Press.
Q8: Who has helped you most with your writing?
James: As with my influences, there are many. I would like to thank Amy-Jean Muller, Stephen Golds, B F Jones, Max, Scott, Tisa, Wayne, Alec, and a few more. They know who they are.
Bio: James Lilley, 34, father of 3 studying part time in a degree in Creative Writing. 2020 saw first work submitted and published with poetry being accepted with Black Bough Poetry, Versification and Spillwords. Is an active MMA and Bareknuckle fighter and a retired professional boxer dubbed the ‘Punching Poet’
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Jennifer: I wrote little stories about the squirrels in the front yard of my childhood home at the age of six but began to take writing more seriously at the age of nine. I was really into The Babysitters Club books by Ann M. Martin. I loved reading so much and making up stories to tell my siblings and cousins so it just made sense to me that I should be writing them down. One of my favorite Babysitters Club characters, Mallory Pike, wanted to be an author too and kept a journal so of course I followed suit. It also makes sense that a fictional character was my biggest influence back then as well. I was a very imaginative child and I sought solace in characters from books and TV. Most of my childhood writings were fan fiction.
Q2: Who is your biggest influence today?
Jennifer: I read a lot so it’s very difficult to pinpoint a single influence. I’ve also met a lot of people over my lifetime who have become poems. Some of them were people I only encountered once. I’m influenced by a lot, but for the sake of answering the question I’ll list some writers who have inspired me: Walt Whitman, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Diane Burns, Sherman Alexie, and Willliam S. Burroughs.
3. Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/art?
Jennifer: I lived in Detroit, MI until I was thirteen years old and then Springhill, FL until my late twenties. Since my writing now is mostly nostalgic, both of these places and life events I experienced there have heavily influenced my writing. I’m not going to spill my traumas here—my life has never been easy—but both places hold huge signifiance for me on many levels. Michigan will always be home and the place I return to in my mind the most. It’s the only place I’ve lived in that had all four seasons and I’ve come to learn how that cyclic change is very important for my well-being. Times were somewhat easier and simpler then so I associate that place with so much goodness. The desire and hope that I will be able to move back and hopefully die there eventually is all over my writing. Florida is influential for a lot of other reasons. It’s a place I avoid as much as possible, except in my writing, because there’s so much about living there that I really would love to just purge. I grew up in different ways in both places so they’re both definitely in my work.
Q4: Have any travels away from home influenced work & describe?
Jennifer: I have not traveled much in my lifetime for the sole purpose of traveling. The two trips I have taken for vacation purposes were in my twenties. I went to Las Vegas once and when friends fell in love with the place and wanted to live here someday, I told them all they were crazy and I would never even consider it. Well, life had other plans. I currently live in Las Vegas and believe me, I never imagined I’d live here and I’ll admit I’m still not a very big fan of it. It is way too hot for my liking. Living in three different parts of the United States at various stages in my life that are so vastly different from each other is a definite influence. Every new place created a whole new me. I had to grow and adapt to new ages, maturity levels, locations, and worsening chronic illnesses. As I said before, I hope my next and last stop will be home again.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be an artist/poet/writer?
When I was nine this old man who ran a neighborhood newsletter asked my friends and I if any of us wrote or drew pictures and wanted to be featured in it. I liked writing creepy stories and had a lot of them so it was perfect that he specifically asked for something spooky because it was October. I wrote a few stories for the newsletter until he ran out of money to keep it going. He gifted me an old typewriter and that was when I knew I would be writing for the rest of my life. I was addicted to that thing. I typed up every thought in my head and annoyed my sister with the clunky sounds it made. It broke beyond repair right before I moved with my family down to Florida, but by then computers were becoming the thing. I learned to type early but I still kept notebooks and that continues today. Sometimes I have better flow with the keyboard, other times I can only write with the pen.
Q6: Favorite activities when not writing/creating to relax?
Jennifer: What is this “relax” thing that you speak of? laughs As I said I love to read. I’ll read just about anything. I prefer darker literature, memoir type stuff, and poetry the most though. I’m also a huge lover of film. I can spend entire days watching movies and due to chronic pain, I often do. I also listen to a lot of different types of music and that can be relaxing too, especially if I’m in the mood to sing along. I’m also a huge fan of phone calls. Most people hate the phone but the rare few I know that I can talk with for hours are treasured by me.
Forthcoming, some of my microfiction will be published in a horror anthology. It’s going to be a collection of #horrorprompt tweets from over the years by those who participate in the writing prompt over on Twitter. https://twitter.com/horrorprompt
Q8: One of your favorite lines from one of your poems/songs?
"but I'm certain
of sounds from the dark
keeping me awake,
of navigating postictal
through tunneled hallways,
& of the last image
I recall before the long fall"
I can't ever pick favorites, but this stanza from a poem I wrote called “After the Shock” sticks out in my mind at the moment. My “epilepsy poems” often stand out for me. Some of them I've written while my head is still in that post-seizure, postictal state and that's always a surprise to find while I'm editing. Being diagnosed with epilepsy has changed so much of my life and the way I write. It's something I'll never escape from because it's my own brain.
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Jennifer: There are two people. My high school drama/English teacher for telling me “Wow, these aren't your typical angsty teen poems” while reading my work. He was a writer himself and he gave me a lot of advice and encouragement to keep learning, writing, and improving. I still remember our talks about writing and I learned more in those conversations than in my entire high school career.
The second was a dear writer/editor friend of mine that I corresponded with for many years who unfortunately passed away in 2013. He helped me break through a lot during discouraged times in my life where I was ready to call it quits when it came to the whole writing thing. I'll never forget either one of them or the advice they so kindly offered to me.
Thank you, Fevers of the Mind, for wanting to interview me.
Bio: Jennifer Patino is an Ojibwe poet from Detroit, Michigan currently residing in Las Vegas, Nevada. She lives for books and film. She has had work featured in Door is A Jar, Punk Noir Magazine, The Chamber Magazine, Free Verse Revolution Lit, and elsewhere. She blogs at www.thistlethoughts.com.
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Reggie: I started writing at the age of nine as a hobby I did on summer vacations. Langston Hughes was one of my first influences.
Q2: Who is your biggest influence today?
Reggie: The writers I’ve come into contact on social media who I’ve become very good friends with: Natalie Hernandez (@yerrrnandez), Luis Delossantos (@CoolerStoryMarc), Harold Fonseca (@halfxyou), Elijah Horton (@elijahhorton94), Chris Butler (@CLBpoetry) Daniel Alvarez (@itsdannylondon), Bruce Llano (@Beeruce_Sama).
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/art?
Reggie: Cincinnati, Ohio. I was taught to write about things you know and have experienced. Speaking personal truths will help to strengthen your writing.
Q4: Have any travels away from home influenced your work & describe if so?
Reggie: Yes, I recently took a trip to Orlando, Florida to meet up with some of my friends who inspire me continuously. That time away and being in that environment with all them helped me create some dope content that I can’t wait to share with everyone very soon.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a poet/writer/artist?
Reggie: When Drake released his Take Care Album. After 9, I didn’t pick up poetry again seriously til I turned 19. That album showed so much versatility in his writing and the ability to express his emotions through art was inspiring.
Q6: Favorite activities to help you relax when not writing/creating?
Reggie: Playing video games, listening to music.
Q7: Any recent or upcoming promotional work you’d like to do now?
Reggie: I have a surprise project dropping July 1st, with Daily Drunk Magazine and then at the end of the summer I’ll be releasing my tenth book.
Q8: One of your favorite lines from a poem of yours?
From my poem 'Look At Me' found in my book, Cuarentena:
"I am black
I am then
I am now
I am what's to come
We are not less than
We are equal
We just want to be heard
And not for your entertainment
I am black
And you will not take that away from me"
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Reggie: A few people. Natalie Hernandez & Luis Delossantos taught me to not minimize the writing. Keep writing as it doesn’t matter how long it is or that it needs to stop at a certain length. Harold Fonseca, Elijah Horton taught me to expand the creativity. My love for music has now transcended into new territories as it has not only incorporated in my writing but I’ve had the pleasure of doing songwriting too. Also, Harold and Chris Butler have taught me to be the voice of a generation. In these last few years with everything going on in the world, the way I could ease my thoughts was in writing. I thank all of them for pushing me to the next level.
Bio: Follow R.D. Johnson on twitter @r_d_Johnson Check out his work on the Poetry Question with RDJ’s Replays https://thepoetryquestion.com/category/replay-rdj/ Read His work on dailydrunkmag.com R.D. Johnson is a pushcart nominee, a best of the net nominee for Fevers of the Mind “(Not Just On) Juneteenth”
Bio: Follow R.D. Johnson on twitter @r_d_Johnson R.D. Johnson is a pushcart nominee, a best of the net nominee for Fevers of the Mind “(Not Just On) Juneteenth” Reggie is an author reigning out of Cincinnati, Ohio. At the age of 9, he found a love for writing while on summer vacation. With influences from music, Reggie has created a rhythmic style of writing to tell his personal experiences and beyond. Reggie has several books available on all major online retailers and his work can be seen in various literary magazines. He currently has two columns, Drunken Karaoke featured on Daily Drunk Magazine & REPLAYS featured on The Poetry Question. https://thepoetryquestion.com/category/replay-rdj/
Ron Sexsmith is an acclaimed singer/songwriter musician from Ontario, Canada. He has been putting out records since the mid 1980’s and signed with Interscope/Warner in the 90’s and began putting out a collection of records that gained attention from not just fans, but other musicians such as Elvis Costello. He has worked with Chris Martin of Coldplay, R.E.M., one of my favorites Leonard Cohen, Ane Brun & many more. He’s had work covered by Rod Stewart, Feist, Emmylou Harris, k.d. Lang, Michael Bublé , Nick Lowe. His latest album in 2020 is “Hermitage” and should be sought out today. Also, please look for Ron’s book “Deer Life” through Dundurn Press. (2017)
Q1: When did you start writing & first influences?
Ron: My first attempts at writing songs came in my mid teens which was mostly riff rock with dumb lyrics. Mostly influences by UK bands like the Beatles & Kinks. I didn’t start writing anything decent until I was about 21, and by then my influences were Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot & Dylan, etc.
Q2: Who is your biggest influences today?
Ron: Most of the same people although i’m quite obsessed with Warren Zevon these days.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how that influence your writing/art?
Ron: I grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario in the mid 60’s and 70’s, which was a great time for radio. All the songs I heard were so melodic with such thought provoking lyrics that made life feel quite magical.
Q4: Have any travels away from home influenced work/describe if so?
Ron: I’ve written many songs on the road while on tour, etc. So I guess the short answer is yes…
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be an artist/writer/poet?
Ron: When I found out I was born on Elvis Presley’s birthday as I turned seven and promptly fell down a flight of stairs.
Q6: Favorite activities when not writing/performing to relax?
Ron: Walking mostly and reading
Q7: Any recent or upcoming promotional work you’d like to do?
Ron: I’m hoping my tour will happen next year. It’s been postponed 3 times now.
Q8: One of your favorite lines from your poem/song, or favorite piece of art or photograph?
Ron: “In every nowhere town, there are somewhere dreams” from my song “Love Shines”
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Ron: Other than my influences, perhaps Mitchell Froom who produced my first 3 records.
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 (https://www.boneandinkpress.com/post/2018/12/04/two-poems-rebecca-kokitus)
Crisis Counseling: Intake, by Kristin Ryan (https://www.boneandinkpress.com/post/2018/10/03/three-poems-by-kristin-ryan)
(en)gender fluid, by Marilee Goad (https://www.boneandinkpress.com/post/2018/09/10/engender-fluid)
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:
Dancing in the Dark
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: recklesschants.net , boneandinkpress.com or follow them on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram @rustbeltjessie