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Poet Spotlight: James Jabar: [he/him/his]

Updated: Jun 11

Poet Spotlight: James Jabar [he/him/his]

Artist Biography: James Jabar is the author of the chapbook Whatever Happened to Black Boys? (Texas Review, 2020), and his poems have appeared in The Freshwater Review, The Minnesota Review, Southern Cultures, and Copper Nickel. He teaches at Guilford Technical Community College. When Jabar is not writing poetry or mentoring students, he enjoys analyzing music and movies on YouTube under the pseudonym Kakashi Cowboy.

Instagram: Facebook: @kakashicowboy

Spotlight Transcript

Co-Executive Director and Program Facilitator, Dom Witten, interviews today's Poet Spotlight James Jabar.

Dom: How would you describe your creative process?

James: It’'s more so stream of consciousness writing and I write without a form in mind, no punctuation or anything until I feel like I've said all I need to say and then I start the process of seeing which form highlights what I'm trying to say the best. I also like to enter poems through images, images really ground me in poems.

Dom: Dom: In the poem "HEAR: (a verb):" from your book, Whatever Happened to Black Boys?, you're using the structure of a definition, using repetition to build momentum and create in-line silences with caesura. How did decide when to use these poetic tools and how to make sure the poem didn't feel overcrowded?

James: I have to credit A. Van Jordan for that poem as well as The Beloved Faith Community in Greensboro. I was reading Jordan's book "M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A" at the time and then The Beloved Faith Community had put out a call for artists to come create work that spoke to the community, so the two together produced a version of the poem that is in the book.

Dom: You taught multiple classes at UNCG, how did the community of teaching influence your writing?

James: There were always these really great conversations teachers were having together about creating community in the classroom, as well as presentations, especially about difficult topics about race, identity, gender, class etc. All of those discussions definitely inform how I go about presenting any of my ideas in a poem now. In the same way that a teacher should try to understand the viewpoint of the student to then find the best way to communicate any learning material, I also try to understand the vantage point of the reader to a certain extent. I tend to stray away from the idea that the only person you should write for is yourself, and I don't think that it's either you write for yourself or you write for the audience. I think the two go hand in hand and teaching has definitely helped me come to terms with that.

Dom: What are you excited about in your work lately?

James: I personally think there's a lot more emotional depth and stakes to what I'm writing now than what I was writing before. I personally think the primary function of any art is to get people to feel something and while my formal interests will always be present, I'm excited to see the outcome of my work as a whole in switching my focus, making form a second thought instead of the first.

Interview Published: 06/2/24

Follow us at tPoeticsLab on Instagram or The Poetics Lab on Facebook for more information about our Poet Spotlight series.

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