Through the Eyes of a Poet series #12
Through the Eyes of a Poet series by Christina M. Ward
Featured Poet: Jenny Justice
Objective: To encourage people to broaden their reading interests through poetry, support the poetry community, and introduce you to poets and their personal stories.
For updates on this series: Join this Author Newsletter.
I first met Jenny Justice on the Medium platform. I was watching my own work appearing on the Top Writer tag for poetry and this other person seemed to be everywhere I went on Medium. I followed her and we began interacting, primarily about poetry. Then one day I was out and about shopping at a local Goodwill store and Jenny messaged me. We messaged throughout the afternoon, got to know each other, and declared ourselves poetry sisters. We’ve shared poetry, life, tears, and joy–and I consider her a dear friend.
It is my honor to bring your attention to this lovely, passionate woman and her poetic journey. Her voice; passionate, relatable, vibrant–is an important one in the poetry community. Her uplifting spirit and mentoring kindness (she works with ASL poets) precedes her and will win you over with a quickness!
A bit about this author
Where are you from?
Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, California, and now Reno, NV
How long have you been writing?
Since Age 7
What is your educational background regarding writing?
It’s interesting. It might be one of those things I regret a bit. I wanted to be an English major. To just go to school and read and read and write. And then maybe teach High School English and change some lives that way. Instead, I took one Sociology class and I was hooked on Sociology because it spoke to my passion for justice, it gave me insights into society and how to change the world, and I told myself okay, I can major in Sociology but always write as a hobby. I wrote poetry all the time in high school and in college.
A bit about Jenny’s work
Where is your work currently published?
Medium. My books on Amazon. My heart.
What are awards / accolades for your work?
Not yet but I think there should be an award for combining sociology and poetry.
(Christina’s interjection here–Jenny is being modest. She’s been a Top Writer for Poetry almost since she joined Medium and she and I have been in the #2 and #3 spots for nearly half a year now. We keep trading places!)
Do you have any published poetry collections?
I have self published two so far. My first one, Love in the Time of Climate Change, and my little year-in-the life poetry memoir, Reveal.
Describe the vision / style / content / etc of your poetry?
Simple, yet deep. Relatable. Not lofty. Here for you. Concerned about justice. Buddhist.
A brief Interview with Jenny
Tell me about your writing process with regards to writing poetry, specifically.
It’s a fine balance between routine and inspiration. I like writing poetry in the morning, especially, but if I have a day on the couch at home, I usually have my laptop near and wait for inspiration to strike. I write about what I know, of course. I write about who I am. I write about what matters to me, personally and politically. I write about spirituality and Buddhism. There is no other process – I write, I edit a bit, and then I post. I consider myself mostly an online poet but am in the process of seeing how to break out – go do some readings, try harder to get things into journals, and so on. But there is something magical about online poetry – the writing, sharing, feedback and engagement that happens in community.
Lately due to this pandemic I have been writing a bit less often, and it has to be really felt – deeply, in order to get out of my mind onto the page. The anxiety level, the absence of routine, the uncertainty of what is to happen, for how long, has really messed with my ability to find inner peace and poetic space.
This one that I did manage to write came from a really pure moment of me being able to shut out all of the constant scrolling and pause my ongoing search for what is happening, is it getting better, will we be okay, – things you cannot really find in a google search, you know? – I had the title come to me before bed one night, I wrote it down, and that’s all I could do. The next day I thought about it some more and this poem came to me.
This is the poem. It just speaks to me and to many, I think, at this time. It is called “I don’t know if I’m a person anymore or just a thing that fights.”
We wanted a break, a rest, we wanted …
and now we would break down for a bit of certainty,
a bit of routine, a bit of it’s safe, it’s safe, it’s all clear.
I don’t know if I’m a person anymore or just a thing that fights.
It’s for each other, it’s for the greater good, but the fear is real
fighting against this thing in our homes, washing our hands more
than any of us have ever considered washing hands before
good, it’s good, I know, but the level veers into obsession —
we have to wash our groceries, packages, we have to be ever on alert
so on alert that sleep feels surreal, odd to engage in.
We make love every night, it has to be the stress, it has to
have something to do with feeling like every day something is
around the corner and it is not going to be normal
If you had a piece of advice for other poets, what would that be?
I write a lot about this but, there’s this feeling of not feeling like a ‘real poet’ if maybe you did not go to an MFA program or if maybe you have yet to be published in a ‘journal journal’ but that is not what poetry actually is or where it comes from. It is not some stamp you get. Poetry is what you do with the voice in your head, the sounds of the words, the pauses, the ability to look at the world around you, and within you, and the emotions and to find a way to express them so that they reach someone else. Don’t be scared try, don’t be scared to be an online poet, don’t be scared to self-publish. It’s the words and the connection that matter most. What I love about poetry is that it can be short and it can grab. One line or phrase can stay with someone for the rest of their lives, a sentence, a stanza. That is powerful. So, read poetry, write poetry, and be brave about it when you are given the chance.
What would you say to people who may not consider poetry to be “their thing?”
Poetry is not what a lot of people think it is. They think it is what they were forced to read in high school, or they think it is something extra high brow that is for the elite, or they think it is old and gone, perhaps. But poetry is every day. It is just out here being poetry. It is at every level and poets are everywhere. There’s poetry for every person and if there is not that just means it is up to you to write that poetry, to be the poetry for the person you are and you will find you are not alone – that your words might speak to others and be poetry for them.
One last question, do you define your poetry or does your poetry define you? Why?
I think it has to be both. We are a co-creation. I have been writing poetry since I was a kid and it has been this one thing in my life that I always felt made me the most me. And I felt, and feel, that it made me different and cool, in a nerd way. I was the go-to poet in my high school and in college I would hold gatherings to celebrate various poets and writers on their birthdays. Poetry was my thing, and it was also me, how I was known, how I was seen by others.
But, then I went years without poetry and those years were some pretty bad years – in an abusive relationship, feeling trapped, living with a narcissistic person who would gaslight me daily, etc. – this person said I was a bad writer, a terrible poet, and an all around awful person, so, you know how it is. To make peace in that space I silenced myself. Big mistake, of course. We all know that on some level but when you feel truly trapped – no money, isolated, everything taken from you externally and internally – self-silencing to just get by seems to happen as some kind of protective shield.
Those dark days are gone, I have found my voice again, and I know better than to ever let her go, silence her, crush her, and so on. So, poetry saved me, and I respect and cherish poetry, my own poetry and poetry in general as this sort of superpower of words that can rescue and heal.
To follow this poet:
Personal website: Jenny Justice, Writer
Medium link: Jenny Justice
Medium poetry publications: Justice Poetic
Newsletter: Jenny Justice Newsletter
Author page Amazon: Jenny Justice, Amazon Author
Author page Goodreads: Jenny Justice, Goodreads Author
Book sales link: Love in the Time of Climate Change
Other: Patreon Page, Jenny Justice
Thank you for reading about this featured poet. I invite you to include poetry in your reading and give this genre a chance to enrich your life. I will be featuring poets on my blog (Author Website), in my newsletter (Author Newsletter), and on my Medium platform (Fiddleheads & Floss Poetry). I welcome you to read about these poets, support them, and perhaps find a poet that brings something very meaningful to your life.
Christina Ward, poet, author, and blogger
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