Foglifter Darlings : Foglifter Press Interview with Jake Skeets
As part of celebrating Foglifter’s recent Pushcart nominees, we interviewed the writers! Next is Jake Skeets, published in Volume 5 Issue 2!
What piece of art—literary or otherwise—has uplifted you during this tumultuous year?
I think Zoom readings kept me tethered to the literary world. I was able to access so many different kinds of readings. It was very uplifting to see communities being built in a virtual and unknown space. Native communities often create social hubs in unknown spaces as a means for survival. Seeing these hubs form was very nurturing because it showed that even in the most pressing times people are still able to come together for art.
What writing habits/rituals are close to your heart?
My writing habits & rituals revolve around the idea of experiment and labor. I follow Levertov’s notion of inscape and reflection. There are these moments that happen in our lives as poets and artists and creators that drive us to make. But instead of writing, I like to tend to these moments and investigate them. It is only after a constellation, as Levertov puts it, of these moments that I sit down to write. And once I do, the lab experiments can start where I try different techniques to get something onto the page.
Who (or what) guides your writing?
See my answer above. I think there are moments in our daily existence that cause us to pause and take notice. I think these moments are driven by a divine nature of some kind. I can’t define that energy, however. I know it happens, though. This may sound like very new-age spiritual nonsense, but I truly believe that there are these small or big moments where we are forced to take pause. I’m sure people are familiar with these moments and define them their own way. They happen. They must happen because without them art would not be possible.
What do you believe is the role of the poet/writer in this cultural climate?
The poet Haesong Kwon said to me once that in the face of conquest and genocide we have no choice but poetry. Poetry is the only way we can speak resistance in a language meant to destroy us. In the words of Toni Morrison, “we do language.” So the job of the poet is to language the divine, the daily, the droll, the desire, the dead, and the dawn.
Beyond writing, how have you been finding joy or rest this year? Do you have a favorite quarantine activity?
I’ve been working from home since March. I have watched so many television shows and rearranged my furniture so many times. I did enroll in a Diné weaving course so I can finally learn something that awed me for so many years. I did joy in finally learning and actually completing rugs. Weaving actually helped me through that stressful election week and I’m finding more and more solace in the craft.
What advice do you have for emerging writers?
Be careful not to deify poets and writers you admire.
All poems are drafts.
There are a variety of ways to be a poet.
Learn how to observe the world.
It is perfectly fine to not write every day.
Read as much as you can (and I don’t mean just the canon and I don’t mean just books).
Feel free to ignore my advice if it doesn’t work for you.
Jake Skeets is Black Streak Wood, born for Water’s Edge. He is Diné from Vanderwagen, New Mexico. He is the author of Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers, a National Poetry Series-winning collection of poems. He holds an MFA in poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Skeets is a winner of the 2018 Discovery/ Boston Review Poetry Contest and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Skeets edits an online publication called Cloudthroat and organizes a poetry salon and reading series called Pollentongue, based in the Southwest. He is a member of Saad Bee Hózhó: A Diné Writers’ Collective and currently teaches at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona.
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