Oyster River Pages: What's the most recent work that surprised you?
Jessica Mehta: In terms of my own work, I'm finally feeling comfortable letting my natural vernacular into my poetry (a vernacular that I learned to repress from adolescence in an effort to fit in and not appear as if I came from the sort of background I do). In terms of others' works, I was recently a fellow at The Poetry Foundation's Incubator program. The work of emerging poets was astounding. My fellow "fellows'" poetry revitalized by faith in contemporary poetry.
ORP: What are you doing to shape and inspire the next generation of artists?
JM: I believe I'm relatively active in the poetic "scene," from sitting on judging panels for various awards to being part of a poetic publishing co-hort. However, what I aim to do most is open doors for fellow indigenous and formerly (currently, too) "shushed" artists. I will, and do, go to bat for poets and voices I believe in, though they are rarely revered by the majority of current gatekeepers.
ORP: What's the most unexpected place you have seen great art?
JM: In the slums of India (I'm currently writing from India). Beauty becomes something more when contrasted with the ugliness of realities...realities we as westerners are often blind to.
ORP: What role does research play in your work? How much do you research before or during the creation of your work?
JM: For poetry, very little. I will sometimes look up technicalities such as the proper names of anatomy, etc. Of course, for my dissertation on poetry and eating disorders, research is all I'm doing!
ORP: What are you currently working on?
JM: I have five books forthcoming through 2020, a handful of individual poems, and of course the PhD in poetry.
Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a Cherokee poet and novelist. She’s the author of seven collections of poetry including the forthcoming Savagery, the forthcoming Constellations of My Body, the forthcoming Drag Me Through the Mess, as well as Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, and The Last Exotic Petting Zoo as well as the novel The Wrong Kind of Indian. She’s been awarded numerous poet-in-residencies posts, including positions at Hosking Houses Trust and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, Paris Lit Up in France, and the Acequia Madre House in Santa Fe, NM. Jessica is the recipient of a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund in Poetry. She is the owner of a multi-award winning writing services business, MehtaFor, and is the founder of the Get it Ohm! karma yoga movement. Visit Jessica’s author site at www.jessicatynermehta.com. Find her poetry here.