Poet of the Week: Jennifer H. Fortin

Poet of the Week: JENNIFER H. FORTIN
JENNIFER H. FORTIN's first book, Mined Muzzle Velocity, will be published by Lowbrow Press in late 2011.

Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Court Green, Copper Nickel, BlazeVOX, Zoland Poetry, H_NGM_NAction, Yes, LIT, GlitterPony, TYPO,Coldfront (a review), and elsewhere. Dancing Girl Press has recently published her chapbook, If Made Into a Law, another chapbook, Nicole C. (Apartment 4), was published as part of the Dusie Kollektiv in 2011; another is forthcoming from Poor Claudia. With three other poets, she founded and edits the online poetry journal LEVELER. She has been named a Finalist for the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Fellowship.

Fortin lives in Syracuse, New York. She is happy to be able to say she is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Bulgaria 2004-2006) with an M.F.A. in Poetry from The New School.

Poet on Poetry's Questions for Jennifer H. Fortin

1.            What inspires you as a poet?

Organization, implosion, derailment, sequence. Things that find themselves on the train tracks, there because they couldn’t resist pressing their ears to the beams. The everyday, every day. Headlights. What’s unfair.

& above all: detail, subtlety. The small things that imply hugeness.

2.            What advice do you have for other poets?

Read & write. It sounds obvious, but I think these activities get lost sometimes in the jungle of other aspects related to poetry: publishing, submitting work, attending & giving readings, networking at conferences. Take care to continue to read & write.

3.            What prompted you to start writing poetry?

A seized pressure prompted me to start writing poems. It soothed me to count syllables, to hoard language, using & misusing it as I pleased. It was like seeing each other’s faces, like everyone finally not doing anything without me.

4.            Where do you see yourself going in the future as a poet?

To Lake country! I need to take my own advice & return to diligent reading (especially older poems) & writing (also older poems?), processing & thinking, & doing it all again. As a recent transplant from Brooklyn to Syracuse, I’m ready to take advantage of my new proximity to these calming lakes, to be quieter, to spend more time with books & paper.

5.            What are your favorite poetry journals?

I read a wide variety of journals, both online & print. The idea of choosing favorites doesn’t appeal to me. There’s so much writing out there to read, & I tend to find more readily poems I admire rather than journals or even poets to call favorite.

6.            Can you tell us a little about the poems your chose to present today? What inspired them maybe, or anything else you’d like to say about them.

Here I’ve chosen a few poems from a new chapbook of mine, If Made Into a Law (Dancing Girl Press).

“Fault” is a kind of feeling around, a kind of being in a word. I sat with the word for a long time, made it an epicenter & worked outward. A lot of words have crazy, complicated origins & meanings (sometimes even contradictory ones—I love those!), & it’s good, thorough exercise to stretch with them.

“If Made Into a Law, the Bill Would Create Several Crimes” is the poem that spurred the organizing principle of the chapbook. This title is based on the textual form of a bill summary. Once I’d written the poem, I thought I’d put together a collection of poems based, however loosely or closely, on existing textual forms usually not associated with poetry (I have a mission statement poem, one based on meeting minutes, & so on). In the case of this piece, I also grabbed some language you might find in a bill summary.

The kernel of “Can You Walk Away Yet?” is also based on a textual form we all know, but in the process of writing the poem, the form has been pretty well buried, I think.

7.            How do you write? Time of day? By hand or computer? Where?

I go long stretches between bouts of writing. I wish I could write more, but maybe it’s that wish that sort of builds to a writing session. Mornings are always best for writing, I find, before I’m forced to engage in language with other people, with the computer screen, with signage, etc.

Jennnifer H.  Fortin's Poetry  


There’s loss of pride when imperfection is
esteemed; also, when perfection is. Indulgence
slickens either way, & so I take down capacities,
lengths, dimensions to reference at some later
erroneous point, to avoid confusion. I was never
talking lions with pride—failures, false
folds—shortcomings flipped appear
as eccentricities. Hysterical cities strain
for equilibrium, cancel forces with exertions
until everyone knows the slash of the beam’s
competitive streak & the scrapers, the steps
of stairways sensing faults below
in the rock, o embedded banana peel,
it is getting slippery in the invisible lowers,
& who will walk up to responsibility?
Panopticon windows grimy on every corner.
Who will walk up to me & say
something? Spoken too softly, fault

sounds like guilt: ensure no swallowed
vibration. Overworked geologists cannot break
this entire code. I took note where I could: faults
can be horizontal, vertical, or oblique. So can
misdeeds, at the bottom. Study what powers have
acted on the bedrock. If your circuitry
is flawed in connection, blame the poor
insulation, grounding, the tennis serves,
anything. Remember that at fault, find fault
& to a fault are kissing cousins with an added
copped feel & context had better not falter.
Dirty mouths simultaneously imperfect & perfect.
My comparatively minor offenses cracked lines.
When I intimated it may be yours, your fault,
you typically took me to want to say
the crevices, evidence of earth’s movement,
grandiose observer of mine who claims
the provocation behind any quake,
the shift in a continuity. My skin
is angry because it is an organ
trying to live on the outside.

If Made Into a Law, the Bill Would Create Several Crimes

Calling into question
the fake fireplace raging
under my dress;
a serial slant; an under-
duress, have-faith-in v;
a taut band
orchestrating the crisp;
a behavior problem or two,
as far as I can tell;
a constitutional friend taught
sloped approaches to amends;
a nacreous, deflected shame;
your toxic complexity
sabotaging the scales

Can You Walk Away Yet?

Edgy letter rising, somehow nestling; the haystack

begs for flames. Putting away from one’s self
the reasons. Matched together, they are the reason.

Incessantly-treaded sidewalk’s seven flattened
sparrows line.

A boot’s heel really digs the girth.

Firing squad’s target
circles. No one’s day is today.

O little one who is going that way.

Pressure on needle’s plunger. If looks could kill.

The brother on the kitchen floor consuming, having consumed.

Mirror’s wicked introduction to Really?

Most unspeakable thing: we deny
the narrows. Obvious joy, one another.

Someone else’s skin
under scooped fingernails.

Bowl of haired goat. Luxury served.

Blinds twisted upwards cannot afford total invisibility.

The walk around the car, around the car, around
the car, around the car, around the car.

The doors are definitely locked. Can you walk away yet?

For the storm warms up muscles, drilling for embrace.

Pie in my eyelashes. Its comedy crumbling.
Imprisoning square frame—the paint tallying days on a wall.

What the cells have
done to you on the outside.

Exposed wires exposing. Electronics
found at their ends.

If I drop an object, it is pulled
to the floor. We lie: falls.

A man’s any-mask makes me run.

Giving away possessions.
Listen to a last song carefully.

Anticipatory foundation,
making up.

Altering lens-shapes: see better, obliterate.

I need some warning other than too-bright/shield.

This morning I visited the driest June
hay, and I am some distance away.

You can find Jennifer H. Fortin at:
1) LEVELER (this is the online poetry journal I co-founded & co-edit)
2) My author page on the Lowbrow Press site

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