Five Questions with Jessica Mogis

Jessica Mogis by Dawn Belik ckimages.com
Jessica Mogis
by Dawn Belik ckimages.com

Jessica Mogis writes. I have had the privilege of seeing her words come across my Facebook Timeline. Her sweet lines make me remember what I love about reading, and about writing. I knew her words before I knew anything about her. Mogis seems to make, as the Belgian surrealist René Magritte put it, “everyday objects shriek aloud.” Mogis’ poetry speaks from, and to, the heart.

The leaves skit
like a herd of yellow haired mice
across the street in headlights,
my foot hovering the brake-
wanting to save them all this:
homes with lantern windows,
empty branches stark as wrist veins
and the ice falling like applause.
I bow my chin and fold
left to right, top to bottom-
lung to lung, crown to toe,
a napkin arranged
a page of English read,
eyes first, head later,
heart last.
It is not yet winter,
but it is.

                   – Jessica Mogis

Jessica Mogis was born in Dodge City, Kansas, raised in Kansas City, Missouri and has spent most of her adult life in Nebraska with a year stint in Paris, France. She studied English, History, and Psychology at University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

"Daily rituals, the small things, inspire me." - Jessica Mogis
“Daily rituals, the small things, inspire me.”
– Jessica Mogis
Photo by Zach Hollowell

Jessica manages ARC Studios, which is owned by her husband, musician/producer Mike Mogis.  She is a Montessori teacher and a mother of two daughters, a dog, a hermit crab, two zebra finches, a betta fish and an axolotl salamander. In her spare time she is to be found enjoying libations, friends, books and forays into writing poetry. Jessica appeared on the Bright Eyes album Digital Ash in a Digital Urn.

"...I never wrote to be good at it. It was a conversation with the world that at the time I felt a bit isolated from. "  - Jessica Mogis
“…I never wrote to be good at it. It was a conversation with the world that at the time I felt a bit isolated from. “
– Jessica Mogis
Photo by Zach Hollowell

Jessica Mogis on Jessica Mogis: A small woman mother to even smaller women.
I mother, manage, teach and learn. I try to write about all of the above as authentically as I can.
Fights For: The small good things.

Jessica was generous in her answers of Five Questions:

1) What are your earliest recollections of writing? Did you know you would be so good at it?

JM – I was a latchkey only child of a single mother, so I grew up with a lot of time and space for being dreamy. My mother was an avid reader and a collector of books. Being surrounded by words more than people, I developed an early ardor and dependency on the company and drama found only in stories and characters. I think perhaps the most important part of being not just a writer, but a good writer is to read a lot of writing. Most writers might tell you the same, but I was a reader well before I ever wrote a word creatively. The one habit just developed out of the former.

That being said, I never wrote to be good at it. It was a conversation with the world that at the time I felt a bit isolated from. I wrote stories for my dolls to enliven, I wrote “I’m sorry” notes in rhyme to my mom after having been in trouble. I created odes for Christmas presents and made verses out of homework. It was as easy, if not more so, for the shy girl that I was to write rather than to speak. It was my second grade teacher that told me that I had a ‘gift’ for writing. It was at that time that writing became less a means of communication and more a matter of craft. Not that I thought I was or would ever be ‘good’ at it, but with her words came a needed confidence and a bit of responsibility to take great care with this gift that I had been presented. In truth, her words were the true ‘gift’.

2) Who are a few of the writers you admire and why? What age were you exposed to your favorites?

JM – I have so many writers that I admire and could list a page’s worth! Of course, although I write mainly poetry, I read so much outside of that genre as well. I can find poetry in nearly any written form. I take notes all the time from ideas garnered from novels and short stories, as well as songs.

As a child, I read Shel Silverstein, Lewis Carroll and Roald Dahl along with many authors and books that were probably inappropriate at the time, but the shelves of the living room were not rearranged for my height or age. I read Henry Miller, Sylvia Plath, J.D. Salinger, D.H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot and the Bronte sisters. Yet, I was a teenager of the 80s and totally got into V.C. Andrews, R.L. Stine, Madeline L’Engle and Stephen King! As an adult, I admit I still do and will reread any of the above authors and have with my own daughter.

As of today and at this moment, I totally admire poets like Jane Hirshfield, Billy Collins, Sharon Olds, Philip Larkin, Robert Creely, Lucille Clifton, John Ashbery and Carol Anne Duffy. I could really go on and on.

I could truly find something in nearly every poet and author that resonates, like an echo returned from a call into the universe. That, that is what engages me in reading a piece of writing and that is what inspires me to write. Just like when I was a child, when writing was a tool of communication, a good poem is like an open conversation with the world.

3) You are so inspired by motherhood to write. What other things are big inspirations for you in your art?

JM – Daily rituals, the small things, inspire me. I suppose the bigger things in relation to that which is small also inspire me. I can write about laundry and the moon, or the apple tree in my yard and the death of my father.

The human condition is so enthralling. We are mammals with intelligence on this spinning rock of life in a vast darkness, it is so very hard to comprehend and I think part of life is that strive for comprehension. There is so much to be said and written in response to our existence.

I am also inspired by motherhood of course, having created an existence beyond myself. It still blows my mind. I also get ideas daily from the young children in the classroom I teach. The perspective of a child, their true honesty and bluntness is absolutely gorgeous and humbling for a run-on-sentence writer who bends the truth daily.

Because I also try to write only that which I know, I’m always trying to learn. Nature and especially weather is a constant scene setter in my writing, so I’m presently working on learning the names of trees and birds native to Nebraska, as well as the names of the constellations.

4) Your style is so light and free. How much do you write before you get to a finished product. Do you have anyone who edits you or are you self – edited?

JM – I don’t write for journals, or even for submission. This is incredibly freeing and a bit constricting as well. I simply write when I have the time and I feel like I have something to say or share. This plan elicits several poems a week or none for several weeks.

Generally, I have a poem seeding for several days. The work is done somewhere between awake and asleep, unconsciousness and consciousness. I’ll be working with my hands, raking leaves or doing dishes and the poem starts to form and speak for itself. By the time I’m down to paper or keyboard, the process is quite fast. When it is done, I share it right away. I am not burdened with the fear of acceptance, if one chooses to read the poem and finds an ‘echo returned’ as it were, then I consider the poem a success.

At this point, with my day-to-day writing, I self-edit. I did compose and self- publish a book a few years ago, and I did ask for help from a few colleagues and friends with editing and structure, which was most appreciated.

5) What goals do you have with your art? Short-term / long term? What life goals are you looking forward to and why?

JM- I’m currently working on poems for a collaborative project with visual artists that I hope to finish within the year. Several very gracious artists agreed to create a visual piece based on a written one of mine. Collaborating art mediums has been such a wonderful experience and I’m super excited to share the result. I’m hoping to have a reading and gallery show of all the work as well as publish a book with each poem and visualization.

As for long term, I don’t know if I would call it a goal or more accurately a daydream, but I imagine one day there will be more time and space to be dreamy, like when I was a child. Yet, I also wish for the time and space to take the dream a bit more seriously and commit to a schedule of writing and perhaps submission to the greater poetry world. For now, life is what is lived and then we write about it- with time.

LIKE JESSICA MOGIS

12/2/14

xo

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