July 1–7, 2019
Jackie Braje is a Brooklyn-based poet-person who grew up in Tampa, FL. She’s the cofounder and editor-in-chief of Milk Press and the programs coordinator at the Poetry Society of New York, where she coproduces events like the New York City Poetry Festival and other initiatives in an effort to make poetry fun and accessible to the public. She’s also a performer in the Poetry Brothel, an immersive literary cabaret. Her work has appeared in the Minnesota Review, the Nottingham Review, Bridge Eight, Waccamaw, Vagabond City, Dark River Review and elsewhere. She has also been featured by Free People, Blackbook Media and Bustle. This past spring, she was named a Brooklyn Poets Fellow for study in Ana Božičević’s Structure & Play workshop.
Author photo by Ty Cole
Breakable: Body, Branch
The house is a bird’s very person; it is its form and its most immediate effort, I shall even say, its suffering.
If the bend of a lover’s knee
swallowed me whole at night
there is solace in knowing
I’d left my room tidy—
that the books sit dirigible
and bleached on a windowsill.
That tattered petals dull-
thud from their vase like the
softest hipbones knocking.
That a fondness for the world
lead one to excavate two
windows and two doors in the
white walls, pre-war
[would a bird build its nest if
it did not have its instinct for
confidence in the world?]
This time I cut my hair with a tender
knife and leave the trimmings for the
birds, leave the eucalyptus out to dry,
watch the fiddle-leaves drink their last.
The bed isn’t made but
fold the top sheet slow,
shy of paper-cuts—
a textured yielding.
A drunk-stumbling moth
shatters the illusion of my
window with its wings and
now I can’t recall the last time
I swallowed a record needle
and didn’t sing.
Tell us about the making of this poem.
I wrote this poem in collaboration with architectural photographer Ty Cole, who reached out to a small handful of poets asking what the word “home” meant to each of us and then photographed everyone in their respective nests. When he asked me, my mind immediately drifted over to Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, which we ended up exploring in Ana’s workshop. I wanted to make a home out of what makes me most vulnerable and tender and afraid.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently working on organizing the 9th annual New York City Poetry Festival, which takes place on Governors Island July 27th and 28th and is completely free and open to the public! (Is this is a sponsored post?)
What’s a good day for you?
That’s a tough one. I’d have to say April 25th. Because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket.
What brought you to Brooklyn?
I was offered a music journo internship right after I graduated college, so I packed my two suitcases and “savings” and booked it.
Tell us about your neighborhood. How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other neighborhoods or places you’ve lived?
I’ve been in Greenpoint for about three years now. It’s kind of like a sleepy little harbor town with a surplus of Polish bakeries, stores that carry exclusively old TVs and blenders, and a lot of Williamsburg dribble, which I suppose explains how it’s changing. I don’t think I can compare it to any other place I’ve lived. It is home.
Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad, or in between.
Once when I was checking out at a bodega, a woman in a trench coat approached me, pulled a tiny live turtle from her coat pocket, placed it on the counter and said, “You like turtles?”
What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that here? Why or why not?
I was lucky enough to find my poetry community before I ever seriously considered making poetry an axis point in my life, and it’s been one of my most formative experiences to date. I found it through the Poetry Brothel and the Poetry Society of New York, and the passion and support that I continue to receive from this community is entirely invaluable.
Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.
Not Brooklyn per se, but O’Hara and Eileen Myles have always been huge for me. Ana’s workshop on structure and play opened up a really major door for me (in me?). Ladan Osman’s reading at the NYC Poetry Festival last year knocked me over. Tracy K. Smith for reasons that need not be explained … The list is long.
Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?
Stephanie Berger really roped me in when I first reached out to her looking to volunteer with PSNY in any way I could, and it’s opened up countless doors for me ever since, in the most wonderful way. Kathleen Ochshorn, my old faculty advisor in college, has also been a huge advocate for me since I was a wee little freshman in undergrad, and that’s not easy to come by.
Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.
Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle is just pure, pure magic from start to finish. Meadowlands by Louise Glück is her usual breed of tragic and comic that always makes my heart ache in the best way. UGH, and hearing Ilya Kaminsky read from Deaf Republic at the Sarah Lawrence Poetry Festival recently made me weep actual tears.
What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?
A collection of Wallace Stevens poems has been ogling me from my bookshelf for a while now. Same with The Dream Songs by Berryman.
Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?
Complete ADD. I’m currently in the throes of Ottessa Moshfegh, Clarice Lispector and Bolaño, and I’ll typically neglect at least one of those books for weeks at a time. I always find my next read at random or through a friend or on a stranger’s stoop, and I’m an avid underliner and dog-earer. Print or die.
What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?
I’d love to experiment with writing long poems, as my writing tends to be a little short-winded. I also want to play more with the shape and architecture of poetry.
Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?
Coffee shops, but the noisy kind. The beach, on the rare occasion when I make it to a beach. The train if I can snag a seat. Other people’s homes?
What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?
I have approx. 5,000 fond memories of sitting at Transmitter Park with really good people. I love working at Le Gamin in Greenpoint when it’s empty in the middle of the day and the whole joint is sun-washed. Old Carriage Inn in Park Slope (RIP) used to have the world’s best karaoke. The pier in Red Hook is where I fell in love. There are too many places!