1. When did you start writing?
"As cliche as it may sound, I think since I was actually capable of forming stories. I have always been a storyteller, but most of my family would tell you I was actually just a straight up liar and that’s why I was so into stories, which isn’t too far off. I loved to make up wild stories about strangers that I saw on the street, animals I encountered, all of that. It was therapeutic; I was always either throwing a tantrum or telling everyone story after story. And it would get on everyone’s nerves, so once I was able to write I went from oral to written storytelling."
2. What is your method of writing? Notebooks, computer?
"Computer. Mainly because so many of my poetic thoughts (and, the best ones, usually) occur while I’m doing homework assignments on my laptop, so I’ll jot the down exactly when I have them, which may be a bit of an annoyance for my teachers when I forget to remove them before turning an assignment in. And writing on a computer saves much more time; I’m less worried about whether or not I’m writing particular letters properly (yes, I still worry about that whenever I’m writing anything by hand), so I can focus on whole words and phrases and sentences. I also still don’t really understand how to hold a pencil properly, so writing on paper is simply painful which does not encourage me much."
3. Where do you draw inspiration?
"Lately, I’ve been drawing a lot of inspiration from media I really liked in my childhood. Not just writing poems specifically about them, although I have done that quite a lot recently, but the themes I see in them. We underestimate children’s media a lot, which is understandable considering the nature of it, but I quite enjoy overestimating it. Treating Fireboy and Watergirl as though it is an intentional analysis concerning gender theory, for example.
Also, I take a lot of inspiration from my writing friends, other teen writers especially. I used to try to master the style of all these famous poets that I hardly ever know about, but I’ve found it’s so much easier to look at something a little closer to home, especially since I can actually have conversations with them about their pieces. And their pieces are just as gorgeous as any famous writer’s, which makes me believe mine can be too."
4. How do you title poems?
"I don’t have much of a method for titling poems and I’m trying to work on it, but essentially I ask myself a handful of questions. Firstly, does it warrant a long or short title? I used to be one of those people who gave all my poems ridiculously long titles to make up for the fact that I simply could not think of anything concise enough, but now I determine length based on if the poem seems to say, ‘you cannot contain me’. Vague, sure, but there’s always an immediate answer. Secondly, I look for recurring phrases, images, metaphors and all that in the poem and pick something that I can almost analyze within my own title.
I’m also a big fan of contradictory titles that show a certain nuance; like, my poem ‘recovery’ is clearly about unhealthy tendencies, and the title is meant to really stress the sorta delusional the narrator is experiencing.
And a lot of the time I actually build a poem from the title. These are usually the titles with an almost aggressive image, like ‘DISSECTING THE MOON AS A SHITTY LOVER’. I usually find it much more enjoyable, like I’m using a prompt that I made myself."
5. What do you hope people take away from your work?
"This is really hard for me because sometimes I still have trouble comprehending that people even perceive my writing, so it’s difficult to imagine people may even take something away from it. I guess all I really want is for someone to read a poem of mine and think, 'wow, I’ve never thought about it like that before'. I don’t want my writing to depict something someone has never experienced (that seems a bit too intimidating) and I don’t want it to “rewrite” any experience either; I just wanna add something raw and new that people can think of the next time they experience what I’m trying to depict. Not every time they experience it. Just the next time would be nice."
6. On your author page you have a unique feature where you include bookmarks linking work by other writers. What brought this about?
"I’ve actually seen a handful of author pages with bookmarks, although it looks like it may be a bit of a trend just among a certain group of teen writers. Personally, I really enjoy sharing pieces that stopped me in some way; and by that I mean, pieces that are so emotional, raw, or simply beautiful that they make me pause enough that it creates its own memory that I feel the need to recount when talking to other writers. So when I saw other’s adding this bookmark section I thought oh, that’s a great way to express my ecstatic feelings about some pieces, so I frantically did it myself and I’ve continued to quickly add any pieces that make me feel that way."
7. You are a Staff Editor at Interstellar Literary Review. What has this experience taught you so far?
"Holding someone’s writing in your hand, having to decide whether or not it will be a good fit for our mag, it’s almost painful. I’ve always loved critiquing writing, so the experience of giving feedback to submitters is something I enjoy no matter the piece, but it’s so difficult taking that feedback and having to make a ‘yes or no’ decision with it. But my experience as an editor has really taught me to approach pieces differently because I have to figure out what I really like about a submission before getting to make a decision, and the experience is so much better if I immerse myself in what I really like about a piece first. So I’ve really started enjoying reading and writing more, which is a bit ironic considering it is now sorta like a job for me."
8. What other project(s) do you hope to take on?
"I’d really like to write some chapbooks when I have the time, which may not be for a while considering how hectic my life is and also just the fact that I still have so much learning to do (I am only 16, although I always forget that). I did already start working on a chapbook over the summer actually, but I’ve given that some much needed rest and will hopefully get back to it next summer.
I’d also really like to write a song in the future. I’ve written some lyrics before and I have a bit of singing experience, and I think I’d really enjoy it."
9. What’s the best writing advice you’ve been told or happened to overhear? Or, what writing advice would you offer?
"Maybe not the best writing advice, but my favorite writing advice I’ve ever received came from my 8th grader English teacher. She told me something along the lines of ‘everyone always says to write from your heart, but that’s not gonna be enough and just ends up being stupid sometimes. You have to trust your gut and write with that too.’ I’m sure someone has said it in a more graceful way, but more hard-truth wording such as that always leaves more of an imprint on me. I never really consider this advice until I’m stuck, lost trying to figure out the perfect metaphor to represent the exact grief I was feeling or the perfect ending line to one of the saddest poems I’ve ever written. I spiral really easily and get frustrated, so at this point I want to give up and I do actually give up a lot of the time, but sometimes I’ll do what that teacher told me. Read over the poem again and just think “well what is my gut telling me to do here?”, then I do exactly that and just leave it be for at least a day. It gives me a sense of clarity that makes it so much better to revise if I need to, but often I end up leaving that gut-feeling addition simply because it’s perfect for the poem. Not always the most beautiful, not always even truthful to the inspiration story behind the poem if there is one, but still perfectly fitting for the poem that is actually on the page and I have learned to make that my goal for every single bit of every single poem."
10. And finally, what do you enjoy doing that you don’t talk about enough. Tell me all about it!
"Fashion! I’m certainly not an expert and I don’t care to learn to be one, but I really enjoy putting outfits together. I have pinterest boards full of individual clothes items, whole outfits, and some designs. I’ve even drawn some of my own designs, but they were never too impressive. My particular obsessions are funky earrings and colorful grunge."
Hear Jaiden read their poem "Birthrights," on page 37 of Southchild Issue III: Technicolor Sunrise.
Jaiden Thompson is a young Black, queer poet. They are a three-time Best of the Net nominee. They have work published or forthcoming in COUNTERCLOCK, Stone of Madness, Lumiere Review and perhappened, among others. They are also an editor for Interstellar Literary Review. Learn more about them here: https://jaidenthompson.carrd.co/
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