Is there one subject you feel you return to in your writing?
O so many over the years, I think. Right now, I’m working on poems that grapple with cognition, memory, and connection. Go big or go home, right?! I’m fascinated with the complex evolution of the cognitive abilities of cephalopods at the moment, so these delightful creatures are prowling around some of my poetry. I also almost always return to hands and touch—and maybe this gets back to that theme of connection, but poems must reach and breathe and think for me to do the same. That’s so important to me.
Do you have any previously published pieces you’re particularly proud of?
Up the Staircase has two of my Anne Sexton poems up right now. Another of the Anne Sexton pieces won the Gulf Stream poetry contest last summer. I have a chapbook of these poems that has been quite the contender lately in many contests, but it is still looking for a good home. https://www.upthestaircase.org/jen-rouse.html https://gulfstreamlitmag.com/when-you-go-to-mardi-gras-with-anne-sexton/ But my very favorite one is with Wicked Alice and is called “What Would Happen if You Took Anne Sexton to Costco?” http://www.dancinggirlpress.com/Jen_Rouse18.pdf
How do you feel about traditional poems and free verse? Which do you feel fits the present time? Can they coincide within one poem?
I have always loved watching poets take on form—no matter how they go after it, if it’s organic to the work and feels fresh, I’m all in. Watching poets like Sexton and Rich and Lorde smash the patriarchy by breaking sonnets and letting lines take enormous breaths, unclenching—those were wonderful and truly educational moments for me. Being an older poet now, I love seeing all of the hybrid work, combining so much visual and poetic art in a brave new world.
I’m a fan of fairytales and those who rewrite them, especially so that they’re updated to the present time. What made you choose these two in particular?
I have to say, I love queering a good fairytale—especially the ones that have become so mainstream. Snow White has always just called out with pure madness to me. I mean, how much must a woman have to endure?! I like finding ways to give these women autonomy—and, occasionally, exact a little revenge. I open up worlds and possibilities to the women in these tales. If we go back to the originals and early adaptations, the relationships are far more complicated and fascinating. Are the evil queens truly evil? Why bother with a prince? Usually the male roles are far less interesting on the whole. In “Petite Rouge” it was really wonderful to play with the wolf’s gender and role in the tale.
That being said, do you have a favorite story that you return to for inspiration?
When I began writing poetry, one of the first books I read was Anne Sexton’s Transformations. So forbidden, so dark. Her Rapunzel scarred me in a way, and I’ve never really shaken that piece. Consequently, I wrote my own one act—“Thorn and Kiss”—trying to come to some resolution for the women in that story. No less dark. Perhaps more tender.