Teri Grimm

Teri Grimm is a local writer, residing in Jacksonville, Florida, with her family. She received her BFA in poetry at the University of Omaha and her MFA at Vermont College. Grimm has two collections of poetry published as well as having her writing appear in other literary magazines, journals, and anthologies.

Personally, I was not all too acquainted with her writing before coming to Douglas Anderson and being introduced to her by the writing teachers. From the get go, the fact that she was a local writer made her more accessible to me because she was here in my town. She didn’t live in New York City or Chicago or in a remote cabin in the woods; she is where I am.

Out of the poems that I have read of hers, the one that has continued to stick with me is Magic Lantern. The progression of her images is so natural and the language is attainable. I don’t like to read poems where the language is so over my head that I don’t know what on earth is going on because it takes away any connection that I could have made with the work and the speaker of the poem itself. Grimm’s language allows for me delve into the poem itself.

Magic Lantern, specifically, poses philosophical ideas and questions of identity and the significance of life, but not in the way that is too overwhelming. The images themselves are grounded, so that the poem isn’t this abstract piece that I couldn’t grasp onto. Images like “he’d show glass slides of the Taj Mahal / or lovers kissing in a Venetian gondola. Familiar / scenes too and after flickering black and grey.” These are some of my favorite lines from this poem solely because I can see what the speaker is talking about. I can feel the awe of the Taj Mahal and I can feel the romance of the lovers kissing in a gondola. I am with the speaker.

How she ends this poem is what stayed with me the most. The poem is structured as a single longer stanza with long lines and then the ending line is on its own and is shorter than the rest. “But that was before I knew better.” Through the latter half of the poem, Grimm explores ideas of being this almost ethereal person and having this kind of light to her, so that “the world could see me better.” The language, again, is beautiful and captivating in itself, but the last line is what got me. It switches the speaker’s tone into something more reluctant and questioning of the world and themselves. Before the speaker is hopeful, maybe even a little jovial, but then the last line allows for the speaker to become someone more cautious and scared almost.

Grimm’s writing has allowed for myself to be okay with taking these turns that aren’t entirely expected because typically, I am careful with my writing, I am in my defined comfort zone. But with Grimm, she turns the poem, like all good poets, so that it isn’t what you expect.

Read Magic Lantern here: http://teriyoumansgrimm.com/poems.html

Winne Blay, Junior Managing Editor

Black Voice

From first glance, Jamal Parker is a very successful young writer. He has been champion to a number of poetry slams, worked as an editor in different publications, and is a Douglas Anderson graduate. A lot of his work, written and in the literary community, involves speaking through the perspective of being a Black man and pushing the achievements of Black people. I personally connect to this aspect of Parker as a writer, as I too often write about the being Black and what the Black experience is to me. Parker has judged for a poetry competition for the Campaign of Black Male Achievements and is a member of the Black Boy Fly collective, an artistic performance team.

Just from reading the titles of Parker’s voice, I get a feeling that he is an unapologetic voice who is more than willing to ask questions and interrogate to get the answers. As I read his poem “and in this nightmare a white supremacist tried to kill me,” I felt tension throughout the entire piece. It felt like straining, like not knowing what was going to happen, falling apart because of it, then coming to an open end, still unknowing, yet learned. A technique Parker uses is imagery. The last lines (“his intentions are as bold as burnt crosses on Sabbath morning”) are stunning. This image is very strong on its own. Although the poem is full of tension, this image is the most packed and uses masterful language.

Continuing to search through Parker’s poetry, I noticed he often ends his poems on assertions. Poems are very short and compact. It begins, develops, and concludes a story usually in a small number of lines. This can make poetry harder to chew as it is so much in so little time. Sometimes a poem needs to cram, to set things against each other in a tight space to create friction. I believe Parker is very efficient at giving just the right amount when it is needed. He explains the contents of his poem then crafts an assertion at the very end to get that right amount of direct and compact. This plays out in his poem “Last Monday.” In this poem, Parker describes what it’s like to be a Black student in a classroom of ignorance. Throughout, he shows his feelings of injustice and anger through short language and tone in lines like “like my brothers and I aren’t soon to be buried there” and “like she’s chewed on the word before.” He ends “College is where I discovered, being an activist in a classroom setting is actually holding my mouth quiet—” which speaks to the frustration the speaker is feeling, the final assertion, external and internal anger.

What makes Jamal Parker a masterful writer to me is his need to dive into personal experience. His work is full of clear voice and emotion that show how unafraid he is to show himself through writing.

Lindsay Yarn, Digital Media Editor

Saturation

After getting the chance to be an audience to Billy Merrell at a previous Elan Alumni reading as well as seeing him at Writer’s Fest in 2016, I’m excited to see what he brings to the table at this year’s Writer’s Fest. Reading through his poems have been an emotional experience, but one that I’ve enjoyed greatly.

It takes a level of vulnerability and acceptance towards opening up to be able to write intimately and personally. This is something that took me three years at Douglas Anderson to finally do, but it was a freeing feeling once I finally opened up. I got the same feeling from reading Billy Merrell’s “Canon,” a poem I felt I had some secret connection to through my existence as a writer, as someone who looks onto the work of others in order to give myself the ability and the might to write on my own. I admire the way Merrell not only brings this connection into the piece but makes it specifically personal to himself through the listing of specific poets.

Another admirable aspect of the poem is its beginning, the very conversational tone it takes on from the start. I think much of this comes with the topic of the poem and how open it is to different types of readers to connect. The topic of the poem, self-acceptance, makes the conversational tone seem intimate. There’s an emotional understanding between speaker and reader.

I really enjoy reading poems saturated with emotions and experiences that feel very personal to the writer or the speaker themselves. That’s what it was like when reading “Cannon,” a saturation. I felt discomforted in the best way possible.

Another powerful poem by Merrell is “Folding Sheets,” from his collection Talking in the Dark. This poem describes the moment between a mother and son in which they carry out an everyday action like holding sheets together, but the closeness that comes with doing so. I’ve recently written a lot of poems concerning the relationship I have with my own parents, so this one caught my attention.

This poem focuses specifically on a single moment. It’s layered with many different images, the same object and action shown in different ways, symbolizing different things. I love that Merrell does this, that he makes this moment so vivid that I picture myself there. One line that stuck out to me the most is “And then the air underneath is undone/like hands just after a prayer.” This line, beautifully unique, felt like a breath of air. This moment feels very traditional and devotional. It shows the love between a mother and her son, how much it can be appreciated through such a simple thing.

Knowing that Billy Merrell comes from Douglas Anderson, that he returns to share the art he has continued to produce with much vigor and talent, is inspiring. It strikes down the fear of losing this passion after leaving a sanctuary such as DA. I look forward to being immersed in the art with all the writers next month.

Kinley Dozier, Senior Managing Editor