About the Author

Jenn Givhan author photo NEW

Jennifer Casas Givhan

(she/her/ella/la bruja)

I am a Mexican-American poet and novelist (author of Trinity Sight and Jubilee), who grew up in the Imperial Valley, a small, border community in the Southern California desert. My family has ancestral ties to the indigenous peoples of New Mexico. I earned my MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina and my Master’s in English Literature at California State University Fullerton, where I was the recipient of the Graduate Equity Fellowship.

My honors include a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, a PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices Fellowship, The Frost Place Latin@ Scholarship,  The 2019 New Ohio Review Poetry Prize chosen by Tyehimba Jess, Cutthroat Journal’s 2018 Joy Harjo Poetry Prize 2nd place chosen by Patricia Spears Jones, The 2017 Greg Grummer Poetry Prize chosen by Monica Youn, The 2015 Lascaux Review Editors’ Choice Poetry Prize, The Pinch Poetry Prize chosen by Ada Limón, The DASH Poetry Prize, and 2nd Place in Blue Mesa Review’s 2014 Poetry Prize.

My work has appeared in The New Republic, The Nation, Best of the Net, Best New Poets, AGNI, TriQuarterly, Ploughshares, POETRY, Boston Review, Crazyhorse, Blackbird, The Kenyon Review, New England Review, Salon, The Rumpus, and Prairie Schooner, among many others.

My work tends toward magical realism and dark psychological motherhood that reflects back on an often darker sociopolitical landscape, but the shadow work exists to reveal the light, and that’s always my goal–to shine that hopeful light amidst the darkness. Among my influences are Toni Morison and Ana Castillo, and some of my recent faves are Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing and Victor Lavalle’s The Changeling.

I write, teach online poetry workshops at The Poetry Barn, work as Editor for Tinderbox Editions, and raise two young children with my family in Albuquerque, New Mexico (the Land of Enchantment) and often channel the magickal desert in my writing.

Jenn at her deskFollow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

Read my article in Writers’ Digest.

Here’s an interview with Indiana Review, where I was the 2015 Poetry Prize Runner-Up (I talk about WIC, poetry contests as pig-auctions, Jewel & Destiny’s child, & sticky motherlove).

Check out my Art Talk with the NEA in which I discuss poetry as x-ray vision & why the arts matter.

And an interview with The Review Review about LANDSCAPE WITH HEADLESS MAMA, compiling a first poetry collection, submission advice, and more. “Write your truths, hone your craft, & don’t give up!”

As a Latina writer from a small desert community on the California/Mexico border, one major goal for my writing is to try to speak the multivalent voices of the women I grew up with—the mothers, daughters, childless women, aunties, and nanas who have become the voices of my writing. My poetry is concerned with the complex relationships many of us Latina women have with family; it is both a liberating and subjugating force, can be both buttressing and repressive. It is both mythical and real.

The first poetry collection I wrote shaped itself around the story of my experience with infertility, pregnancy loss, depression, and, finally, emergence into motherhood through the adoption of my now three-year-old son. My greatest writing achievement is thus my greatest life achievement—the realization of myself as a creator whether or not I can biologically bear children. I have since shaped that first manuscript into two separate collections that include the voices of other women and question the very language that delineates “mother” versus “other” (or, woman who is not a mother), but that first collection titled “From the Ashes of My Cervix, I Rise” signals the strength I found to live through the strength I found to write; it speaks to the vital and life-supporting nature of poetry and reminds me daily of why literature is so important.

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. James Washington, Jr.
    Mar 09, 2016 @ 16:05:36

    Hi Jennifer,
    I’m in and around poetry much of the time but still manage to miss some powerful voices until they turn up, as today, on a daily e-poetry distribution. I just read “The Glance” compliments of Rattle. As a friend says about food: “This tastes like more!” And so I set off in search of more and found your “an editor advised me to stop writing mother bird poems.” When I get back up from the floor, I’ll continue the trail to “more.” So nicely done! I’m better for the introduction to your work.

    –Jim

    Reply

    • jgivhan
      Mar 09, 2016 @ 16:07:56

      Jim, thank you so much for this kind & generous note. It means everything to me that my work is out there & resonating with readers. My heart is full.
      All the poetry love,
      Jenn

      Reply

  2. Nancy L Meyer
    Mar 09, 2016 @ 20:19:07

    I too astound myself with The Glance and then reading more of your work on Connotation and the interviews and now off to order your books. I wondered that you did not mention Clarissa Pinkola Estes as a border voice to read, not a poet per se but her sensibilities match yours and she speaks so powerfully to us as women.
    As a white woman married for many years to a Jamaican man, with our son, I struggle to get that experience of racial intersection on the page. Brava for The Glance. I cannot wait to spend more time with your wonderful work.

    Reply

  3. david ethan levit
    Sep 12, 2016 @ 20:28:46

    “the Cheerleaders” – I was very skeptical when I began reading. And as I crept further into the poem I didn’t become less so, at first. But then I felt something begin to seep in and I realized I was being drawn, led into something beautiful and painful and awful. Yes, over the course of the poem you changed my mind, and I realize, maybe you changed both our minds. wonderful discovery!

    Reply

    • jgivhan
      Sep 12, 2016 @ 20:32:55

      Thank you for this honest feedback, David. That you were drawn into what is both beautiful and painful in my poem, and in my experience, into a new discovery–that truly fills my heart. Wishing you all the poetry love and light.
      All the best,
      Jenn

      Reply

      • Frankie
        Nov 16, 2020 @ 01:08:23

        Hello,
        I happened upon some of your poetry somewhere then started following you on Twitter because you’re in New Mexico and I’m in love with all things New Mexico. I just read Girl With Death Mask and now I’m in love with your poetry. Thank you for such a startling and raw book. It is beautiful and inspiring. I can’t wait to read your novels next. You’re a fantasy talent.

      • jgivhan
        Nov 16, 2020 @ 04:06:57

        Thank you so much, Frankie! I’m so glad my work has resonated with you! I appreciate this kind note! Wishing you so much light!
        All best,
        Jenn

  4. baronshahe
    Jan 02, 2018 @ 19:12:25

    Hello Jennifer, I love your work. I just read your work in Poetry, “I am dark, I am forest. I curious about the origin of your last name Givhan. Does it have any middle eastern roots?

    Reply

    • jgivhan
      Jan 02, 2018 @ 19:52:44

      Thank you so much for your kind words about my work & new poem in POETRY! I appreciate your support! I’m not sure where my last name comes from. It’s my husband’s family, and as far as we know it’s Creole/French. Thanks for your note.
      All the poetry love,
      Jenn

      Reply

  5. Trackback: Jennifer Givhan’s “I am dark, I am forest” – The Contemporary Poem
  6. Trackback: Earth Shattering – Umflop!

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