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

What Richard Blanco’s Looking for the Gulf Motel Taught Me About Identity

Aracely PictureAs I lay curled up in an armchair reading Richard Blanco’s third book Looking for the Gulf Motel, I was struck by his diversity and approach. In my personal life, when my writing suddenly shifted towards interactions with my father and references to Mexican culture- I housed a fear that I would be pigeon holed. Surely no one wanted to read ten poems all dealing with my father, and italicized Spanish words. However, words like chiles and tortilla popped up again and again, along with whole lines of dialogue in Spanish.

Somehow,- it wasn’t enough, just to talk about my father and discovering culture. There had to be something else, a layer or theme hiding from me I hadn’t explored yet. Blanco poetry showed me just that. Knowing he was a Cuban writer, I expected unbridled praise for his culture, imagery upon imagery of joyous family gatherings, and ethnic dishes. It wasn’t quite what I imagined.

Reading the poem for which the book is named, I realized there was so many other layers to exploring culture. In the poem he touches on the intricacies of poverty, shame and trying to exist in a society that is not completely forgiving. Amidst this, he celebrates, he creates the true immigrant experience of being out casted, a pariah, and in that humility rebuilding pride, but accepting the weight of practicing culture in different country.

Blanco also explores how his sexuality relates to his culture. He does this in a poem about his grandmother suspecting he was gay, and what the cultural implications of that were. Knowing how the LGBT community is viewed from the traditional Hispanic lens, I felt for him.

More than that, Blanco taught me that even though culture can be beautiful, and rich, you can walk the line of being an in-between, you can criticize it, and be fond of it.

Most recently, with this nugget of knowledge, I’ve been exploring the difficulties of having mixed heritage, being Irish American on my mother’s side and Mexican’s on my fathers.

For a long time I suppressed this desire to voice this confusion. Now I see I can, I have permission to celebrate, and express my identity and its intricacies.

Aracely Medina, Senior Poetry Editor