Kathleen Jesme

Meridian (Tupelo Press, 2012)

What’s the oldest piece in the chapbook? What do you remember about writing it?

Some of the lyric sections of the book were written a couple of years before the narrative sections. I wasn’t sure what the lyric material was about, and it lay around for awhile until I wrote the narrative sections, and then realized that the two spoke to each other and belonged together. The serendipity of creativity, as it were.

What are some of your favorite chapbooks? How did they influence your writing or your desire to make a chapbook of your own?

I’ve read a large number of chapbooks over the years, and have always admired the ones that cohere, that are a poem sequence rather than a bunch of individual poems. That has formed my own sense of what a chapbook can be.

What’s your chapbook about? How is it similar to or different from your earlier work?

Meridian is about the death of the mother. It is a poem sequence comprising narrative prose poems and lyric sections. The lyric parts are similar to my earlier work; the narrative sections are quite new for me.

What made you decide to gather your pieces in a chapbook instead of another format? When did you realize you were working toward a chapbook?

It was always a chapbook.

How did you decide on the length, arrangement, and title of your chapbook?

The length happened by itself; the arrangement was a slow process of moving pieces around; the title came from one of the core lyric pieces in the book.

Did you submit your chapbook to contests, open reading periods, or both?

I submitted it to the Tupelo Snowbound Chapbook contest only.

In what ways did your chapbook change between the version you submitted and the final published version?  Did you revise, rearrange, or make other changes?

I deleted one section that the editor thought did not add anything to the ms.; I agreed.

What have you done to promote and publicize your chapbook?

I’ve done a number of readings and have had a couple of newspaper articles and interviews. I have also used my blog and Facebook page to promote Meridian.

How have your goals as a writer changed since your chapbook was published? What are you working on now?

My goals as a writer have not changed. I write to know what I think and who I am. I am currently working on finalizing my fifth collection of poems, to be published in February by Ahsahta Press.

What is your writing practice?

I try to write every day, giving myself a month off here and there. I write a poem a day in April, National Poetry Month, and usually in at least one other month as well.

Sometimes I succeed at my writing practice and sometimes I don’t. It is well to respect the fallow times.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you offer to an aspiring chapbook author?

If you have a story or a subject you want to write about, write everything you can: circle around it, diverge from it, come back to it. If it turns into a chapbook, that is wonderful. If not, keep writing.

Do you have a favorite prompt or revision technique?  What is it?

No, I am ruled by disorder. Each piece of work comes to me differently, and each must be worked somewhat differently. Like raising children, no two the same.

What question would you like to ask the next chapbook author featured at Speaking of Marvels?

If you have a theme or a topic you are working on, in what ways do you approach it?


Kathleen Jesme is the author of four collections of poems, most recently The Plum-Stone Game from Ahsahta Press and Meridian from Tupelo Press. Her next book of poems,  Albedo, will be out from Ahsahta Press in 2014. She lives in Minnesota.





from Meridian

Late, very late. The year displaces
itself. Bits and pieces. Winter evenings, a sense
of waiting
_____overtakes her.

She is close to the owls: they love
_______________winter for its wakefulness
and plentiful food, the long hunting
hours, clear tracks of mice

over the moon-white snow.
__________She opens her mouth.      Song a lamp
shining into the oblique
dark, comes.

It snowed for four days in the middle of January, during which my mother lay dying. Every time I left her little apartment, my car had changed shapes again. It was too cold to snow, but it snowed. So the snow was light: I could almost blow the car clean of it with my breath. I wore the boots of that city—mukluks, which are good in the constant snow. Some people go barefoot inside their mukluks. I wonder if they are thinking of sand and summer. There was no risk of thaw.
It was snowing
and it snowed:
one snow fell
down inside
the other, two flocks
of gulls alighting
on a white beach. Each
fell and replaced
the other.

Anyone deaf, who couldn’t
_____see what was going on
______________was her mother
who had         outlived
___________________her life and still
kept living. Anyone
__________deaf, anyone blind
_____who couldn’t even then
________________________who didn’t even then.


Two days with black edges. Straight lines
a mourning.               They say evergreen
but what I see is black, now
that I am looking, just
__________remnants fallen
under the double spell of obliteration and imprint.


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