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Poet Spotlight: Jessie Scrimager Galloway [she|her|hers]


Artist Biography: Jessie Scrimager Galloway is an adopted, queer poet with mommy issues. She is a graduate of Pacific University’s MFA program, author of a full-length collection titled not my daughter, Etched Press, and the chapbook Liminal: A Life of Cleavage, Lost Horse Press. She loves her wife’s fried chicken and enjoys riveting conversations with her best editor: Snacks, a wily, polydactyl, orange cat.




Spotlight Transcript


Co-Executive Director and Program Facilitator, Dom Witten, interviews today's Poet Spotlight, Jessie Scrimager Galloway.


Dom: How would you describe your creative process?


Jessie: My creative process is dynamic, nonlinear, and often incited via prompting and mind-trickery to charm my brain into an associative and poetic state. I think of it as conjuring the poem, mining the synapses for the unexpected. Examples of what I mean:

  • Sometimes, I pull a few cards from this exquisite archetypes tarot deck by Kim Krans (https://kimkrans.com/shop) and read the descriptions as they relate to my past, present, or future and write from there.

  • Sometimes, I pull a few photo cards from this OuiSi game (https://shop.ouisi.co/) and describe what each image looks like that is something other than what it is. Then, turn the card upside down, and write another line. Then pick another card and do the same thing, etc. Once you have several lines, write into them with the other senses. Like, okay, what does that smell like, taste like, feel like? Keep writing and then pull out the strongest lines.

  • Sometimes I lift a highly imagistic/ emotionally evocative line from a hella good poet and start writing from there to see where my brain goes with it, then take out their line.

  • Sometimes, my writing crew and I exchange poetry challenges (see Disrupting the Literary Narrative in Not My Daughter) to rev us up and encourage accountability with a deadline of by the next time we meet.

  • I also do the New York Times Wordle every day and then use the word in a Haiku exchange with a writing friend, dubbed Haikudle. Sometimes the three line poems lead to larger poems, but they are a beginning place. Beyond the generation phase, I run rough drafts of poems by a few friends, listen to what they got out of the poem, what lines really hit, and what was unclear or could be expounded upon, then I edit, read it at an open mic, edit, get more feedback from a friend or two, sometimes workshop it, and hopefully land it.


Beyond the generation phase, I run rough drafts of poems by a few friends, listen to what they got out of the poem, what lines really hit, and what was unclear or could be expounded upon, then I edit, read it at an open mic, edit, get more feedback from a friend or two, sometimes workshop it, and hopefully land it.


Dom: While writing your new book, not my daughter, that has several poems speaking directly to the experience of adoption, how did you decide the individual scope of a poem while keeping in mind the story the 44 poems in the collection created?


Jessie: I wish I could say I was mindful of the individual scope of the poems while writing them. This collection spans over a decade of writing about the ruptures of grief, tugs of longing, and momentary breaths of satiation while nursing an origin wound of separation from my birth mom, rejection by my adopted mother for being queer, questioning religion, and rejecting a feminine gender presentation, and, and, and.


The process of writing not my daughter was one of healing, purging, and catharsis. I kept writing the pain to get it out of me, and eventually I found myself more whole, embodied, feeling worthy of love. I found the love of my life and I found my birth family in the process of writing it, so the ups and downs were profound. And, now I can finally pinpoint nature and nurture and name it, embrace it, and/or reject it just as much as the attributes that came from my adopted family all while knowing I am loved for who I am. I wanted the book to evoke that emotional vacillation for the reader and make them question society’s general adoption narrative.


The collection started out as 78 poems that I whittled down with my visionary editor, Kevin Dublin. 44 is all over the bible, so the number is in some ways a clap-back at the religion that rejected me, and a reclamation of my own worthiness and ascension.


Dom: How has your writing community changed over time and how do you sustain it?


Jessie: Over the years, my writing community has undergone profound changes, influenced by my personal journey and commitment, as well as shifts in geography. Initially a Hoosier, born and raised, I was rooted in Muncie, Indiana for undergrad where I exchanged work with a couple of friends. Then, I moved to Portland, Oregon for my MFA and pursuit of a more expansive queer community and arts scene. While the program brought enriching experiences and a handful of mutually supportive writing friends, the post-graduation job search led to a hectic juggling of multiple part-time roles, limiting both my time for writing and community building. In 2014, I attended Tin House and Lambda Literary as a fellow, and met incredible writers from across the country.


Following love and running from grief, I moved to San Francisco in 2016, and I reconnected with writing friends from Tin House and the Lambda Literary Fellowship who folded me into their creative communities. This galvanized my writing practice and my desire for community building led to joining Foglifter Press, a queer and trans literary organization, as their Development Director. And, my yearning for intergenerational community led me to found the Elder Writing Project through Litquake Foundation to facilitate, create, and celebrate writing with Elders in San Francisco. It was during this period that I met the eclectic group of poets, now known as Cleavage Collective, who are my writing group and who I talk to or Zoom with weekly.


My wife and I moved to Columbus, Ohio in 2020, where I first attended Writers Block open mic (virtually and then in person) and formed connections with poets who, coincidentally, were also adopted. In 2023, I hosted Write On Poets featuring local poets and friends from out of state. And, Cat Batsios, one of my favorite folks from Tin House that I’d lost touch with, surprised me by showing up at my birthday reading extravaganza, and we’ve grown close and have featured each other across statelines. I now have even more reason to visit Detroit. Recently, in Columbus, I’ve been going to the Village Poetry Workshop at Two Dollar Radio and reading at their open mic events. And, to combat the isolation exacerbated by the pandemic, I have a weekly phone call with my writing community members for vision boarding and project discussions, to maintain a meaningful and supportive space for creative exchange. My wife and I also host quarterly salons or CLEAVE’s at our house inviting around ten artists (out of towners, locals, community poets, OSU MFAers) to bring a piece to share while we eat, drink, smoke, and get to know each other across differences through art and poetry. All to say, my network of writing community spans multiple states, is both virtual and in-person across geographical boundaries. Developing it took commitment, persistence, and patience, but it is everything to have the magic of community support for your writing.


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


Jessie: I’m excited to be focusing on my second full length currently titled, A Different Threshold, after the last line in not my daughter. In it, I’m exploring the places between the ruptures of my lived experience as a queer, white, adopted, and disabled masculine-of-center woman. The poems touch on the motifs of heritage, erasure, and wonder through the lens of levity and the beauty of impermanence.



Interview Published: 03/21/2024


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