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Interview with Jordan E. Franklin: “I tend to write when the feeling takes me.”

Jordan E. Franklin is a Black poet from Brooklyn, NY. A Brooklyn College alum, she received her MFA from Stony Brook Southampton where she served as a Turner Fellow.

Her work has appeared in the Southampton Review, Breadcrumbs Magazine, Frontier, [PANK], and elsewhere. She was the winner of the 2017 James Hearst Poetry Prize, and a finalist of the 2019 Nightjar Poetry Contest and the 2019 Furious Flower Poetry Prize. Jordan’s debut poetry collection, when the signals come home, was selected by Prageeta Sharma as the winner of the 2020 Gatewood Prize.

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Hi Jordan, great to have you on Famous Writing Routines. We’re really excited to talk to you about your writing routine and process. For those who may not know, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Hello! Thanks for having me! Well, my name is Jordan E. Franklin and I am a poet from Brooklyn, NY. I’ve been writing poetry for about sixteen years now. I received my BFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College and my MFA from Stony Brook Southampton; I am scheduled to start my PhD in English with a Creative Dissertation at Binghamton University in the Fall.

My first poetry collection, when the signals come home, was published by Switchback Books last year and my poetry chapbook, boys in the electric age, was published by Tolsun Books last year as well.

Outside of all the poetry stuff, I’m an avid gamer and lover of horror films.

Do you remember the first moment you realised you wanted to become a poet? 

I have no idea. I just know I’ve always loved words–the sounds they made, their taste, the way they can create images. Poetry is one of the few things in the world that combine my love of words, music, pictures and performance.

Perhaps I first wanted to become a poet when I read Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes in elementary school or maybe I knew I was meant to be a poet during those nights my parents would read to me and the sounds of their words lulled me to sleep.

Both my parents are avid readers and like to write so maybe poetry is entirely genetic or kismet itself. All I know is that, there isn’t one exact moment that told me I was meant to be a poet; I think I always was one even before I had a proper name for it.

Can you take us through the creative process behind your 2021 book, Boys in the Electric Age?  

Honestly, it wasn’t so much a creative process as it was an opportunity. As I was working on my full-length collection, I realised I had some poems that really didn’t fit into the book. It took me a while to realise that these poems were the seeds of a chapbook.

However, I didn’t look at this side project as just a chapbook; instead, I saw it more as a mixtape with a loose thread to connect all the different parts. I tried to be a bit more playful with the chapbook in terms of sound and imagery. I basically pulled from everywhere including music, comic books and even video games.

While there might be a theme or two both projects have in common, I tried to make the chapbook its own separate entity.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

Well, this is a hard question and I think I may have a lousy response.

Truth is, I don’t really have a set writing routine. Rather, I tend to write when the feeling takes me and run with it. I could be washing dishes or riding the subway and a line would just start bouncing around my head. Then, I either pull out my notebook and pen or use the “Notes” app on my phone to start jotting down ideas.

Oftentimes, I have music playing as I write and will play the same song over and over again to remain stuck in the headspace that inspired the line. I even play the same song as I edit. As for editing, I have two modes. I tend to edit as I write the poem, taking out any articles or words that wreck the rhythm of the line.

Once I have a decent-enough draft, I workshop it with my friends and fellow poets Natalya, Jody and Denise. They tell me what works and what isn’t/what can be improved. I then use their feedback to help me work on a final draft. 

I’ve also noticed that I prefer to write at night. While ideas come to me at all times of day, my mojo peaks in the evening for some reason. I just put on a song or two and just go. In fact, I’ve got some tunes on right now.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns affect your routine? 

The pandemic has been really strange. On one hand, it is an additional stressor which has made writing new pieces difficult. On the other hand, it has provided me with additional resources and connections I couldn’t have imagined.

Since the pandemic forced many Writing organisations to conduct their workshops virtually, I’ve gotten to meet and write alongside a lot of amazing writers including Shira Erlichman and Rosebud Ben-Oni. In fact, it was the former’s class which helped me to complete the finishing touches on my full-length collection. The workshops also allowed me an outlet while giving me the opportunity to make new friends.

Photo courtesy of the author

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