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The Little Patuxent Review judges said, “Such serious playfulness is the heartbeat of this poem. Every question is a humorous interrogation of history, gender, race…. The poem is a marvel.”
Jalynn is an MFA student at the University of Baltimore and the founder of SoftSavagePress, a press dedicated to promoting works by Black people. She was kind enough to answer a few questions.
When did you write this poem? Which part was written first? Which part last?
In class we were prompted to do an object meditation. My partner sent a list of objects and the one we both felt drawn to was the quarter. The 25-cent piece has a lot of circular history. I started researching. Who came up with this design? Why’s each state have a different scene? What can you get for 25 cents? I had a lot of questions. I put them in quarters, aka quatrains.
After I read it aloud, I realized it wasn’t me asking questions, it was an immortal Phillis Wheatley—the first Black published woman poet in the USA. She’s just about to put a quarter in the bubble gum slot when she sees Washington’s face and she’s not impressed, worse, she’s underwhelmed like, “who head of the quarter?”
Did you revise the poem? How much and over how long a period of time?
I wrote this piece over the course of an afternoon. I made a rule that the lines had to follow a thematic pattern. But it had no end, it just kept opening. I didn’t know how to stop it. A week later, Mama Wheatley said the reader has to flip the quarter over to finish the poem and start the cycle again.
Tell us about the kind of speech your poem uses. Some readers will find it unconventional.
This poem is in African American Vernacular English (AAVE). I think it’s only unconventional ‘cause it’s Black speech from a Black speaker—an ancestor—, interrogating in the present. That’s a lot of voices we don’t get to hear from! When I wrote this poem, I was reading June Jordan’s collection Directed by Desire. She likes to play in Black speech too. “Menu” and “Addenda to the Papal Bull” are two influential repetition registers.
Your winning poem is written in the voice of another person. Do you have any favorite poems whose writers were adopting other people’s voices?
Which writers inspire you?
June Jordan, Rita Dove, Sonia Sanchez, Gwendolyn Brooks, Eve Ewing, Claudia Rankine, Octavia Butler, Tiffany Haddish.
When did you start writing poetry?
I have always written poetry. But I didn’t understand that the experiential possibilities of a poem are infinite. “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden put me on. That was in the 9th grade.
Do you have any special practices that help you to write?
I like to write wherever I can comfortably be in a trance. The library is the greatest free museum and office space on Earth.
Here’s a list of books new to the Pratt that teens and fans of Young Adults are sure to enjoy. Go ahead, open up a book and jump into a fantasy world with new books from The Mortal Instruments author Cassandra Clare and more.
On a school trip to London that includes her ex-boyfriend, Kim meets risk-taker Nicki. When she jokes about swapping murders, Kim plays along – that is, until Kim’s ex-boyfriend mysteriously dies. Blackmailed by Nicki to fulfill her end of the deal, Kim will have to commit a murder or take the fall for one.
Whats New this Month:
Don’t miss these Nonfiction picks that are new to the Pratt shelves this spring!
Throughout her journey, it has become increasingly clear to Melinda Gates: If you want to lift a society up, you need to stop keeping women down. In this moving and compelling book, she shares lessons learned from the inspiring people she’s met during her work and travels around the world.
Blogger/Stylist LaTonya Yvette gets candid about life’s trials, including motherhood, love, death, and racism. Her first book, Woman of Color, is part memoir, part lifestyle guide, packed with moving essays, gorgeous original photographs, and practical style and beauty advice.
With The View, Barbara Walters revolutionized morning TV. The daily chatfest didn’t just comment on the news. It became the news. Award-winning journalist Ramin Setoodeh takes readers backstage and behind the scenes with stunning interviews with nearly every host.
Witness a mother reshaping her attitudes and beliefs to meet the needs of her transgender son, Penelope– and opening the minds of everyone in her family who absolutely, unequivocally refused to conform. Jodie Patterson also shares her family’s history–particularly incidents within the Black community around sexism, racism, and civil rights.
Here’s a look at some of the latest books hitting the shelves at the Pratt. Happy reading!
In one of the greatest love stories, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of respected author C.S. Lewis and inspired books that still enchants readers today.
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