Poet Of The Week

Vanessa Jimenez Gabb

     May 5-11, 2014

Vanessa Jimenez Gabb is the author of Weekend Poems (dancing girl press) and Red Poems (forthcoming, Similar:Peaks::). Her most recent work can be found in Word Riot, The Atlas Review, The Sensation Feelings Journal, Smoking Glue Gun, and Wicked Alice. She teaches at Newark Academy and is the co-founder of Five Quarterly. She received her MFA in Poetry from Brooklyn College and lives in Prospect Heights.

At the Gym

My hair needs washing
I am oily at the root
With bad waves
Bring your ass
To your ankles
Ian says
I can’t
I scream
I can’t
I stop being happy
Just like that
On account of my hair
Looking crazy
That and my belly
Showing out

When I’m alone here
It’s just me
The weights are alone
I don’t challenge their aloneness
I watch the Netflix
I can’t stop Netflix
It fucks the poetry out
All the harlequin dramas
The he waiting for seasons
For the her
The me
Watching the them back when
It’s not you
It’s me they say

I say like shit I haven’t been
Operating as someone else
I’ve been exactly me
Coming and going
Like I got it like that
I don’t
Every part of me wants to
Bring my ass
To the machinery that confounds
That is change
The not knowing how to change
Half in love
With the body
Not knowing how

–From Weekend Poems, dancing girl press, 2014 (first published in The Atlas Review, Issue 2)

Tell us about the making of this poem.

At the gym, Ian was trying to get me to do something more challenging, and I was so not having it. It made me think about our relationship and the way the exercise of love and the exercise of the body conflate. How do we reconcile intention with action? Why are we so inflexible even when we know if we don’t improve ourselves something important may die? Why am I so damn selfish sometimes?

What are you working on right now?

I’m just note-taking at the moment and thinking about what I want to be working on; I really haven’t written anything in full in a month and a half. Once the teaching term ends in a few weeks, I’ll be more diligent about more formally getting together the beginnings of what will hopefully be a full-length manuscript.

What’s a good day for you?

When I’ve crossed some things off my to-do list; when I am actually in the moment and not on my phone; when I have time to make some dinner instead of ordering out; when I am with family and friends and before we know it day has turned into night; when my jeans fit the way I want them to; when I can discuss compelling material with my students outside on the grass; when a poem starts to take shape; when I can do absolutely nothing with Ian and feel everything.

How long have you lived in Brooklyn? What neighborhood do you live in? What do you like most about it?

I was born and raised in Brooklyn; I was born in East New York and we lived there for a few years, before moving to Canarsie when my father finished his studies and got a university teaching job and made some more money. That’s where I spent most of my childhood/adolescence (until my family moved to Queens my second year of high school). The apartment was pretty spacious and had great light and when we were young my parents used to clear the bedrooms of their furniture and set up games and activities so my sister and I and our friends could create room by room. Ironically, ashamedly, once I went to high school, a private school in Brooklyn, I was hesitant to have anyone over because it was an apartment. Now, I live in Prospect Heights. I love most that I don’t have to go to Manhattan for too much.

Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad or in between.

So many! The night I met my boyfriend at a house party on Carroll Street in Park Slope many summers ago; the surreal MFA at Brooklyn College; deciding to start 5Q with my girl Crissy Van Meter at Chavela’s; spending so much of my early life with my Belizean side of the family at my grandmother’s house in Bed-Stuy, dancing to Soca and eating pig’s tail; the countless intimate and impassioned dinner party discussions that my sister and I experienced with our leftist parents and their friends, that made me so much of who I am.

Favorite Brooklyn poet(s), dead and/or alive?

My favorite Brooklyn poets are my homies who are writing beautiful things broke that may one day appear in a fancy mag, or not. They are warrior poets. My favorite Brooklyn poets are people I don’t know personally but whose poems I’ve read and been moved by at some point.

Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?

I like Unnameable. I really want to check out Freebird.

Favorite places to read and write in Brooklyn (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

I’m really quite terrible at writing (and reading) anywhere but on my sofa or in bed, but when I do get the opportunity, I still like reading in the backseat of a car.

Favorite places to go in Brooklyn not involving reading or writing?

A few weeks ago I went to 1OR8 for my birthday. I love going there for my birthday. Anywhere I can eat well and affordably. Anywhere outside, by water, during the warmer months. Anywhere I can shop for a fabulous hat or high heel. I’m sure some of my favorite places I haven’t been to, yet.

Last awesome book(s)/poem(s) you read?

Margaret Atwood’s “Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing” is ill and Craig Morgan Teicher’s “Spring Reflection” made me weep. I also recently re-read The Bluest Eye. Gahhhh.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate the ice cream flavor at Ample Hills called The Dude,
And what I pay for with a check you should please accept,
For every lick that comes from me as good as the lick that comes

Why Brooklyn?

Which Brooklyn?