Tim Jurney's poetry rings out with his original voice and eclectic imagery. His piece, "i think i am a walking poem now, exhibit a-z" is featured in the second issue of Agave Magazine, and Tim has kindly allowed us here at the Agave blog to premiere one of his poems as a special treat for our readers later this week.
In anticipation of what's to come, we talk to him about bending language, collecting the scribbles in margins, and not being the voice of the Internet generation.
AGAVE: Your poetry is original and inventive; where do your ideas come from?
TIM JURNEY: I'm a junior Spanish Major/Humanities Minor at Kenyon College, a tiny liberal arts school in the middle of corn-field nowhere. Practical vocation? Arguable. But I will say that the Liberal Arts give me so much fodder.
At the end of every semester I go back and type up all the parts I've underlined in novels and textbooks, all the margin-scribbles from class, all the refuse and fragments from this weird, academic circus I live in. The Word documents are incredibly long and the documentation process is arduous as all hell, but even after only five semesters I have more material to work from than I could ever turn into palpable pulp. Ideas are everywhere! But nowhere more than a place like Kenyon, which trades in them.
As a student of Spanish and Humanities, what motivates you to write poetry? Does one aspect of your life inform the other?
No hyperbolics could do justice to the effect that my studies have had on my identity as an artist. Writing is just a form of re-reading — and to do it you have to read so much. You don't have to read the classics (although I'd argue those do help), but you do need to consume a helluva lot. Spanish is the most beautiful language in the world, and the Spanish world is filled with thinkers and artists who we don't see nearly enough of in English (our global linguistic hegemony is criminal — the cool stuff mostly happens elsewhere these days).
As to what motivates me: writer Jean Rhys said it best. "All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. And then there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don't matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake."
Tell us about your first favourite poem.
Oh boy! Firsts are tough for me, because I have so many of them all the time. But when I was ten a family friend gave me a complete collection of Emily Dickinson's poetry, and I loved how confusing it all was. I would hold on to little phrases that made sense to me and carry them around with me for days, making sense of everything as a Loaded Gun or measuring every Grief like Mine.
My most recent first favorite poem is "New York, New York, New York, New York, New York" by Catie Rosemurgy. I read it and was like THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I HAVE EVER FELT LIKE THIS. It was awesome.
What do you believe is the key to finding an honest, non-jarring way to incorporate colloquial language into a poem?
I hope my language is jarring, actually. The key for me is to write in the words that I actually use. I'm on the internet all the time, so I don't shy away from internet-y nouns and verbs and adjectives and spellings and grammatical quirks, because those are the honest expression of my existence. I think and even speak in internet jargon — most of my generation does. It is almost always jarring to see Facebook-language in poetry today, at least for me as a reader. But I like that.
"Being The Voice Of The Internet Generation" can't be the point of any of my poems because that's shock value, and poems should last far beyond their shock value. But it's a good way to get people to notice your writing at first, and anyway most people my age who write without internet jargon are doing a lot of self-selection. Which isn't generally a great way to write poetry.
The imagery in your poems is strikingly vivid and unorthodox; what draws you to create such weird and wonderful images?
Language is very frustrating for me. I don't feel happy very often (although sometimes I do) — I usually feel something much more complex, emotions like the glint of a tiger's eye or bones clapping in an encore. My friends are used to this. I come to the table for lunch and say "today I am full of cicadas and jean jackets" and that is my way of telling everyone how I am doing.
I think a lot of people see poetry as an art which intends to confound — twist up words until all sense is lost. For me, poetry is the most concise and direct way to express something which would otherwise take pages and pages of prose to explain. And since language is so feeble, I have to bend it a lot to get where I'm going.
*** Dear Readers, don't forget to watch this space for an exclusive poem by Tim Jurney later this week. ***