Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Interview with Jessie Carty

Jessie Carty is the author of a collection of poetry entitled At the A and P Meridiem and editor of a unique YouTube literary journal called Shape of a Box. She is a graduate of the Queens University creative writing program and currently lives in Charlotte. Her poetry has been widely published and on Tuesday, July 14, she will be a featured reader along with Margaret Boothe Baddour at Poetry Hickory, held at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in downtown Hickory at 6:30 PM. I sat with her recently and asked her a few questions in preparation for her reading. Here is that interview.

Owens: "Shape of a Box" is the only literary journal on YouTube that I'm aware of. Where did you get the idea to do a YouTube journal?

Carty: During most of 2008 I was toying with the idea of starting a literary magazine, but I wasn't sure what format I wanted to work in. I wanted to do something "different". I originally thought I would publish an online magazine but I just had this light bulb kind of moment where I decided to consider putting video and poetry together. I was already a fan of YouTube so I started searching for poets. I found a lot of poets working on their own but I found no evidence of an actual literary magazine that published on YouTube (there are a few lit mags that have content up, such as their open mike events). The idea just stuck and "Shape of a Box" was born!

Owens: What has been the highlight for you of the first year of "Shape of a Box?" And where do you see the magazine going from here?

Carty: The highlight of working with "Shape of a Box" has been the variety of work I've been given the opportunity to read. There is so much talent out there! Putting together weekly issues of "Shape of a Box" has been very time consuming. I think for my second year I am going to move the magazine to a monthly publication. I will have reading periods once a month (for about two weeks) and then one issue a month that will be a longer video than the ones up now which may include work by more than one writer in a given issue.

Owens: What was your inspiration for the structure of your book, "At the A and P Meridiem"?

Carty: I wrote the poem "7pm" for my very first MFA workshop. I was having trouble titling it and chose 7pm because I felt the poem just had this feeling of that time of the day. The poem was well received and I had been trying to put together a chapbook when I thought, hmm, a poem for each hour of the day could work well in a chapbook. I then went back through poems I had written and discoverd I had quite a few that could fit an hour of the day so the process began.

Owens: Do you see the poems in "At the A and P Meridiem" as a coherent unit? Aside from the controlling motif of the hours, how are they thematically linked or what story do they tell when placed together?

Carty: I find the poems in "At the A and P Meridiem" to be a coherent unit in the sense that they are all looking into the specificity of a moment. In some sense the poems are like a montage of a day, as if you were looking through each window in an apartment building, the speakers are somehow connected by more than just the time of the day but by their proximity to each other. I think the poems link to each other in how, I hope, my readers can relate to the emotion of a moment, of an individual event.

Owens: So, is there a message in "At the A and P Meridiem," something you'd like the reader to realize or conclude?

Carty: I'd like for people to read "At the A and P Meridiem" and come away with the sense that we are all very much alike despite the diverse ways we live the hours of our lives.
Owens: Why poetry? Why do you write it, and why do you seek to publish it?
Carty: I really can't remember a time when I wasn't interested in poetry. I apparently made up poems before I could even write about things such as dandelions (a plant I still find fascinating even if other people insist on calling it a weed). I've tried other genres but they just do not work for me. I am a poet. I love the music of how words work against each other. To me, being a poet is writing from each word to the next, so writing poems is where I belong. I think a certain amount of seeking publication is to validate myself as a writer, but I really just like the idea that someone might connect with one of my poems in they way that I have connected with the work of other poets. Writing and reading poetry is all about understanding yourself and others through words. Who doesn't love a good Ah-ha moment?

Owens: This interview is being written for a newspaper audience in Hickory, NC. As a poet and "poetry advocate," is there anything you'd like to say to that audience?

Carty: Hickory is such an amazing town. I commuted to work in Hickory (1 hour each way) for 5 years, simply because I liked the people I worked with. I think the people of Hickory might be surprised at the wealth of writers and artists in their community but with articles like this and events like Poetry Hickory, hopefully, the people of the Catawba Valley area will get out there and support some of their local artists!