Two interviews with Jenn Givhan

“I’m so grateful that my own inner journey connected with the ancients’—and that I’ve been able to glean a different perspective on dystopian fiction from a Latinx/indigenous perspective, centering us in our lands.”

Trinity Sight coverJenn Givhan author photorosa 1

I have two books out this year, & in these two interviews I discuss the processes of writing poetry & fiction & black holes!

Interview with Inklette Magazine for International Women’s Day:

“Alongside these forebears, I strive to weave together a multilayered song of endurance, survival, and, ultimately, celebration sung by the many women of color working together in the resistance.”

Interview with Arizona University Press:

“This collection is a lovesong for all precocious girls wandering the deserts, creating ruckuses and circuses and finding love where before there was only pain— for all the lost daughters of time, reclaiming ourselves, singing ourselves, triumphant. This is our hero’s journey.”

You can buy ROSA’S EINSTEIN from Amazon or any major bookstore, and preorder TRINITY SIGHT now.

All the writerly love & light,

Jenn  ♥

 

TRINITY SIGHT now available for pre-order!

My debut novel TRINITY SIGHT is available for pre-order from Blackstone Publishing! I’m over-the-moon!!! Here is a link for IndieBound, which helps support small bookstores. It is also available on Amazon.

 

My Blackstone Publishing Dream Team!

Wishing For More & Never Enough—

Jenn Givhan

Wishing For More & Never Enough—                                                                                               

 

What more did I want than this, child? Than you stretched

taffy horizontal across my bed, a little black chihuahua

on your lap? What miracle would I erase

for a sizzling new day, a razzle in the heart & another

day’s fade. My mother dipped her napkin into a glass of ice

water before rubbing dirt or jelly from my face. I use

spit. On a plain thumb. Rub vigorously. & not only

when your eyelashes have fallen, child, do I grasp wishes.

I pluck your lashes out. I do. You blink & there I go

with my tweezers for fingers. What did you wish for

Mama, in your little bird’s rasp when we press our damp

hands together & the lash sticks to mine & I hold it

triumphant. The wish used to be you. I used to wish for you.

The ache now: When I tell you my wish, you say

that was yours too.

 

 

 

Rosa’s Einstein (Camino del Sol Poetry Series)

rosa's einstein update

Available from University of Arizona Press (30% off with code AZFLR)

Also available at Amazon & other major booksellers.

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Rosa’s Einstein is a Latinx retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s Snow-White and Rose-Red, reevaluating border, identity, and immigration narratives through the unlikely amalgamation of physics and fairy tale.

In this full-length poetry collection, the girls of Rosa’s Einstein embark on a quest to discover what is real and what is possible in the realms of imagination, spurred on by scientific curiosity and emotional resilience. Following a structural narrative arc inspired by the archetypal hero’s journey, sisters Rosa and Nieve descend into the desert borderlands of New Mexico to find resolution and healing through a bold and fearless examination of the past, meeting ghostly helpers and hinderers along the way. These metaphorical spirits take the shape of circus performers, scientists, and Lieserl, the lost daughter Albert Einstein gave away.

Poet Jennifer Givhan reimagines the life of Lieserl, weaving her search for her scientist father with Rosa and Nieve’s own search for theirs. Using details both from Einstein’s known life and from quantum physics, Givhan imagines Lieserl in a circus-like landscape of childhood trauma and survival, guided by Rosa and Nieve.

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“Raise a glass, sit in Alice’s just-vacated seat, and sip Givhan’s heady home brew, slipping yourself through yourself to sift through her poems’ generous gifts of light. In our only and ever more burdened earth, this book is a welcome and welcoming cry in the night, calling all time bandits: We live in a universe still expanding! Come in. Welcome home.”—Julie Sophia Paegle, author of Twelve Clocks

 

Rosa’s Einstein is lush, lurid with color, ‘flowerfisted,’ feminist, and bomb-blast bright. ‘[B]raiding history with myth / like ribbons through plaits,’ Jennifer Givhan turns her keen eyes to time—the science and magic of it—and invents something wholly (and holy) original. This book is seared into my brain.”—Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones

 

“Jennifer Givhan’s voice is desperately needed, at this moment more than ever, and in Rosa’s Einstein she ambitiously tackles physics, fairy tales, immigration, nuclear bombs, and time travel in one vivid and marvelous collection.”—Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of Field Guide to the End of the World

 

“Highly inventive, super obsessive, and beautifully written, this book of poems is a sleek animal you will find yourself panting behind, chasing Jennifer Givhan as she reclaims history, teaches Albert Einstein to dance cumbia, and makes a ghost sister, Nieve, from the fallout of the Trinity explosion.”—Carrie Fountain, author of Burn Lake

 

Girl With Death Mask now an audio book!

Girl with Death Mask audio book announcement

Dear friends,

My heartbeat has been set. My first ever audio book is alive. & I’m a grateful poeta.

You can sample & find more info here.

All the poetry love & light,

Jenn

The Poetry Collection is a Place for Disparities, Or Let It Bleed

Image result for imperial valley date farm

When I originally compiled my first collection Landscape with Headless Mama, I imagined the book very differently, called it Red Sun Mothers, and divided it into sections based on the experiences of different mother-entities in Mexican/American culture, including the infertile woman (or adoptive mother) and the psychologically-socially unstable mother (La Llorona—Mexican Medea figure). I began the collection before I adopted my son, and it was published when he was nine-years-old, so it was in flux all those years. And as the collection progressed while I raised my children, I realized the divisions were not so clearly delineated. Even after becoming a mother, sometimes the grief of miscarriage seeped through, and even in joy, there was also exhaustion and uncertainty, which sometimes gave way to fear and anxiety-induced mental illness, near breaks with reality, so that La Llorona was never as far from the supposedly stable mother as she might at first seem.

In the meantime, I read contemporary collections that struck deep chords and inspired new ways of seeing the shape of my poems as individuals and together—books like Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard, Julia Alvarez’s Homecoming, Patricia Smith’s Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, and Claudia Emerson’s Late Wife. Reading these collections and then looking back to my own material, I found that my poems showed me how many conflicting desires and facets of truth/experience they could hold at once, how they could negotiate these borderland spaces where nothing is as clearly defined as we might wish—motherhood is messy, and the book showed me how to embrace that via the structure—so that Mama’s story bleeds into the speaker’s own, and it’s never entirely clear whether the speaker is the mother or the daughter. That bleeding uncertainty is purposeful and came after many years of trying structure after structure until I found the perfect one that asked each poem to do multiple layers of work.

Think of your poetry collection as a world, as a landscape, as a city, a room. Think as large or small as you need to for your poems to become as important and personal as they need to be for you to see them as a whole. By this I mean they should each carry a shape, a weight, a specific texture and color and smell within the collection, the way a place or character in your birthplace or childhood hometown would; think back to your street. On mine, Rio Vista, there were date palms, purplish jewels fallen to the dirt lot that separated the neighborhood from a dirt hill that led down to the New River, polluted and toxic carrying waste from the border, forty minutes away, bleeding socio-political alongside the glowing, dying fish.

Each poem in a collection occupies space in this world, and thereby offers up its significance, connected in some tangible way to those residing beside it. In mine: the house I grew up in, the neighbors’ houses where I experienced abuses and made lifelong friends, those palm trees dropping those squishy fruits that still remind me of the cockroaches infesting our bathrooms summerlong, the packed-earth hills I slid on my backside to the riverbanks below, where some still believe La Llorona herself haunts, and on those mud-cracked banks, the blood of her children.

See how I’ve gone from most personal home to most socially-connected river, with its border politics, its cultural myths—but they’re interlinked, my home beside that polluted water.

There are any number of ways you could order the space you’ve created—it’s your world, after all. My collections often begin with the most personal and yet I believe the personal is inherently political. In this way, a narrative begins to emerge, and carry with it the undercurrent of deeper troubled waters. I don’t recommend you stick only to chronology. I’ve found that any chronological order that arises in my collections comes after finding deeper and more nuanced connections in the spaces between the poems. For example, in Landscape with Headless Mama, chronology came after discovering that Mama and the speaker’s stories were interwoven. Then I could tell multiple stories at once. A clear chronology felt too facile; I’d tried that at one point and it didn’t feel honest in the way that the imagination can sometimes get at deeper truths than nonfiction. Instead, the chronology in the structure comes from a narrative underpinning. I love story—the power of story. And it was important to me that in telling my own story, I was speaking the truths of my own mother(s)—the women I grew up with in the Imperial Valley and in my own Mexican-American familia, even when the stories were nonlinear and messy.

A poetry collection is a place for disparities and oppositions and paradoxes to coexist and coalesce and stretch us to find new ways of existing within the flux. So even your most contentious, paradoxical poems can work together if you’re finding how they fit in the larger space. If you cannot find the connections even in the breaking places, then perhaps those poems are not meant for this particular world, and you should save them for another. I’ve found that poems I took out of my first collection ended up fitting perfectly in my second and beyond. My third collection, for example, retells some of Mama’s story but from a new angle, for compiling each collection has required of me stretching and seeing and re-seeing in new ways.

A manuscript consultation client asked me whether or not her poems of being an abused daughter fit in a collection so clearly about a mother caring for a child with special needs. She’d received conflicting advice from her mentor and felt torn about whether or not the differences and breaking places could ever fit together. I said, absolutelyin the world you’ve created. Being a mother is not separate from being a woman. And being a motherwoman is not separate from being a daughtergirl. I’ve found this over and over in my own life and poems. I’ve found the most freedom in my work when I’ve allowed everything to bleed, as I have bled. The past tinges the present, but the strangeness and heart truth is that the present tinges the past. That’s been the heartwork of mothering, for me. Mothering poetry and children.

Keep finding ways to coalesce and shed light and shadow on the different angles of your poems and your life, poets. Keep finding places of connection, where that jeweled date falls from palm to dirt—a hinge between the personal and political—write there.

 

 

 

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