Connections: chatting with Jay Sizemore

Jay Sizemore’s poem, “The value of things,” was one of the two winners of our first In Our Books prompt-based poetry contest. IOB took a few moments to chat with Jay about, well, poetry.

IOB: What was the hardest thing about writing the poem you submitted?

JS: I would say it is always a difficult task to write something about a topic larger than one’s self, and yet try and retain the feeling that the poem is coming from that place of genuine emotion. I try to do that with all my work. After I write it, I ask myself, “Is this real, or am I trying too hard to make something work?” Most of the time, I think it is a challenge hard to live up to, because when writers tackle difficult themes, sometimes you have to write outside the scope of your own experiences, and that tends to muddy the waters of the real. Often it is best to, as cliche as it is, “stick to what you know,” and let others attribute themes to your work. But it is fun to try large themes anyway, and as if you couldn’t tell by my piece, I have strong feelings about what the concept of ownership does to society.

IOB: Who is a poet you admire a great deal, and why?

JS: My favorite poet for a long time now has been Bob Hicok. When I was in college, a professor of mine, Dr. Tom Hunley, let me borrow Plus Shipping, because we were writing papers on poets from one of our text books, and I had loved his poem “Absence” so much, I wanted to read more. The paper also had to involve an interview with the poet, and surprisingly he answered my emails, and we actually talked back and forth for a while, when I was going through my borderline-stalker-obsessed-fan phase. Anyway, Hicok’s work has an uncanny sense of realism about it, which I was immediately drawn to. He has a powerful command of language, and image, almost every poem driving that sense of awe into your guts, or twisting words into a kind of hypnosis. It’s the kind of talent you just can’t fake. One can always aspire to reach that level of greatness, but it’s like singing in the shower and thinking you can win American Idol. It’s rare.

[ina notes: just read through Hicok’s Animal Soul on Jay’s recommendation. Really remarkable collection – vivid and vital imagery as well as the rhythm and flow of each work. Great stuff.]

IOB: Where can people find more of your work?

JS: There is very little of my work online anymore, as I have discovered most journals don’t like publishing things that have appeared on even a blog, so I took most of it down. There are several pieces left up on my old blog, The Ghosts of Silence, and I do plan on posting things there that have already been accepted elsewhere. Other than that, what little I have had published you can find at the respective journals, like Red River Review, Wild Goose Poetry, Emerge, Siren, and a few others. I also have gotten some things in a couple poetry anthologies put together from a fairly tight-knit group of poets who met online at Robert Brewer’s Poetic Asides blog: Beyond the Dark Room [disclosure: ina is one of the poets whose work appears in this anthology. All proceeds from this volume will go to Medicines Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders] and Prompted: An International Collection of Poetry. I have also had some short fiction accepted here and there, online in Schlock, and Scholars and Rogues, and in the anthologies No Rest for the Wicked and Fantastic Horror Vol. 4. Most of my fiction is genre-based, I feel I must warn you, but it is fun to write that stuff.

IOB: Jay, thanks so much for talking with us, and for entering our contest. We’ll be watching your future writing progress with considerable interest!

IOB will post our interview with our other winner, Daniel Ari, within a week. Stay tuned!