Jonterri Gadson is Debra's daughter. A Cave Canem fellow, she is a recent graduate of University of Virginia's MFA program in poetry and the current Herbert W. Martin Post-Graduate Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Dayton. Her poetry has previously been published by The Rumpus, Tidal Basin Review, Muzzle, and other journals. Her chapbook, Pepper Girl, is forthcoming from YesYes Books in Fall 2012.
Her poem "A Body's Winter" appears in Issue Thirty-Eight of The Collagist.
Here, Jonterri Gadson speaks to interviewer Elizabeth Deanna Morris about the body, desire, and freedom.
1. How did you go about writing “A Body’s Winter”?
I was reading Ed Roberson’s Voices Cast Out to Talk Us In at the time with an online poetry book club of Twitter poets. Roberson’s poems put me in a cosmic mindset. Plus, I was experiencing winter in Des Moines, IA, which was a combination of various levels of cold/isolation. So I started there--with the weather--and took myself where I wanted to be through the poem.
2. The body is such a central figure in both of the poems in this month’s issue. Specifically, the body seems to be a place of entrapment (I’m thinking of the lines, “I ache to be atmospheric” from “A Body’s Winter” and the more obvious “Made of my body / a prison” from “An Appeal.”) Could you talk about how you see the body as image in your poems?
It’s funny because I didn’t used to write about the body at all and then suddenly I couldn’t get away from it. When I’m speaking of the body, most times, what I really mean is desire. I think of a body as an entity that desires, desires to be desired, and is desired.
3. I keep coming back to the line “Make justice / of my body.” It seems such a calloused line compared to the last line, “show it you want to come home.” Could you talk about your movement between these lines of this poem?
When I think about the first line of “An Appeal,” I think of using the body as a method to achieve freedom; finding freedom in the realization and expression of the body as a being that desires. I was also speaking in literal terms about the appeals process in the US criminal justice system and that an appeal can be a way of gaining freedom, going home.
4. What have you found gut-wrenching to read recently?
According to my Twitter account, on September 15 at 1:39 AM I felt that “it should be absolutely illegal” for Vievee Francis to have written “Taking It.” Hours later at 10:45 AM, I was still “shattered.” It’s the way the poem doesn’t flinch, doesn’t really turn away from the terror even when it acknowledges that it is turning away. Is it possible to be more authentic than that?
5. What are other writings that you’ve been working on?
My chapbook, Pepper Girl, just came out with YesYes Books. As far as new writing, every other week I workshop 4-5 pages of poems via video chat with a fellow poet I met at the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop last summer. I’ve also been writing personal essays. And I’m writing book reviews for some poetry collections I am really excited about.