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SaraEve Fermin Reviews Girls Who Fell In Love With War by Jennifer Hudgens
Girls Who Fell In Love With War is all of those and more.
Jennifer Hudgens brings her first full length anthology to life and holds nothing back. A book born in the fires of trauma, mental illness, body image and death, the Oklahoma based poet speaks with a voice that transcends pain and reminds you that yes, there is another side to the gutting.
Thank you for teaching me charm, grace-
for showing me what it means to be so human
even when it feels similar to breaking.
More than anything, this book is a tribute to her father, who passed from cancer in 2015. His memory is painted across the manuscript, twirling many poems into childhood memories one could pluck like jewels and hold to lips, like sweet strawberries. In “Ostriches”, Hudgens manages to tell the story of disappointment turned ritual turned coming-of-age–
Forgiveness was the Grand Canyon.
Every summer Daddy made
promises he was never able to keep,
the best salesmen anyone had met.
The book delves into the politics of the body, centering on eating disorders and self-harm. Hudgens is open and blunt in her poems, a refreshing read into a topic that can often be fraught with metaphors.
The trick was to swim,
Hudgens demands her space. She demands to be taken seriously, demands to be seen, demands to her own self worth—something that is so hard in a time when people will do so much to take that away from a survivor. She demands not to be seen as the actions that made her, but as the person she has become.
Stop telling me I am broken.
Stop telling me I have to ‘let things go’.
Stop telling me how to heal.
When you left- you took your fool mouth,
and left me to my bravery at dusk.
Girls Who Fell In Love With War is available from Swimming With Elephants Publications as well as from Hudgens site, where you can get a signed copy. Pick up one today. Fall in love with your own wars. Find the courage to win.
SaraEve : If you could start this interview, what would you ask yourself?
Jennifer : Honestly? I’d ask, “Why do you do what you do?” When I ask, it means, why do you ‘do’ poetry? I’ve had people ask me that a lot. My answer: is because it is a huge part of who I am. I think and breathe poetry. I cannot function well without writing. I turn into this bitter, angry person that I don’t even recognize anymore-especially if I’ve not written enough.
SaraEve : How do you begin writing a poem?
Jennifer : Usually, the poems just hit me. I could be driving in rush hour traffic or trying to focus on homework. Hell, I could be dreaming about mermaids and zombies, then I wake up, and there’s a poem. My poems are very organic. Rarely do I just decide to write about something and it happens the way I want it to. I sit down to write, and let whatever comes-comes. Editing comes in very handy once I’ve gotten it out. I want to say my poems are magic, they find me, just when I need them, and sometimes when I wish they wouldn’t.
SaraEve : Thank you for Girls Who Fell In Love With War, it is both beautiful and tragic, glorious in the story of triumph, a Girl who is constantly becoming. You address eating disorders, depression, trauma and abuse. You talk about losing your father to cancer—I’m sorry. Can you talk about how this had an impact on your writing?
Jennifer : No need to apologize. All of these things that have tried so hard to break me, have made me who I am. As cliché as that sounds, I wouldn’t be here right now if I hadn’t found poetry as an outlet. I used to write poetry so thick with metaphor that nobody could understand it. I even go back and look at my first chapbook and have no clue what the hell I was writing about. At one point, I decided to stop hiding behind my words, and come full force with them. My life has been an uphill battle, always. Every time I get kicked, I find strength to pull myself back up. I guess it’s the stubborn Irish in me. Losing my Da less than a year ago was the hardest thing I’ve ever lived through. I’m still not sure I’ve managed to live through it. I think I’m just kind of floating along. When you lose a parent, people either try to console you by saying things like, “At least he’s in a better place,” or “At least he’s not in pain anymore.” Those people are the ones that haven’t lost someone particularly close by. I’ve had people tell me to get over it, or that it’s been long enough. I’ve lost friends who have no clue how to be around me anymore. The roughest part is, I just want my friends around. I don’t have to spend time talking about my Da, but if he comes up in conversation, I’d like it to be okay to tell stories about him. I’ve never experienced this sort of heartbreak. It’s managed to fuel some very powerful poems, one of which people love to hear, “Tiny Bones and Dust.” Every time I read it, I sob. It makes people cry, but it’s honest. Sometimes, I wish I could just write funny poems, or pop culture poems, and not write so much about pain. I had an older poet once tell me that she didn’t understand how someone could turn pain into art until she met me. I was floored by it.
SaraEve : You are an editor at Wicked Banshee Press, and your work has been featured at several presses. Can you talk a little about your submission process, and how it has helped you amass a manuscript’s worth of poetry?
Jennifer : Editing for WBP has been a joy. I love helping new voices get exposure they deserve, solely on their merit as writer’s, publishing through presses has been great. I don’t submit as often as I should, but when I do, just like all poets, I try really hard to not have any expectations. Some people think I don’t get rejection letters. I do. Usually from places I’ve forgotten I even submitted poems to. The majority of places I’ve been accepted in have been really awesome. I know not every poem is a masterpiece, and all we can do is try, right? I’d like to make a book of blackout poetry with my rejection letters.
I write (usually) every day. I write as often as I can manage. I have specific folders for edited poems, whether for submissions or chapbooks, or some other project I want to do. I will every-so-often take around 10-15 poems, and just sit with them, editing and shaping them into something I like a bit more. I think it’s important to step away from things you’ve written, and edit later, always later. It’s too close, you’re too raw, and the poem will end up butchered because of that. Give it a week or two. Give yourself time to pull back so that when you “kill your darlings” it won’t be so difficult. Oh, and always keep multiple files with different versions of the same poem. You never know when you might want to go back to a previous version.
SaraEve : Who are the poets that you keep going to?
Jennifer : Melissa May-Dunn, Sierra DeMulder, Ai, Dominique Christina, just to name a few. I wish I could just eat all of their poems, maybe I could become a poem.
Jennifer is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing at the University of Central Oklahoma with plans to teach high school students after graduation and pursue an MFA in Creative Writing. She is a pretty rad substitute teacher.
Jen genuinely hopes you like her poems. If you don’t, that’s okay too.
SaraEve Fermin is a performance poet and epilepsy advocate from New Jersey. An East Coast heart jumping circus trains, she is the editor-in-chief of Wicked Banshee Press. Nowadays can be found volunteering at National Poetry Slam Events. She is a Women of the World Poetry Slam Competitor and her work can be found in GERM Magazine, Drunk In A Midnight Choir, Free Verse Magazine and Transcendence among others. Her second book of poetry, The View From The Top of the Ferris Wheel, will be published by Emphat!c Press in 2015. She believes in the power of foxes and self publishing.