“I think of St. Louis as a place in which people are right next to each other and trying not to see each other at the same time,” said writer and poet Jacqui Germain, who has made her home here since moving from Ohio in 2008 to attend Washington University. Germain has stayed in the area and her changing relationship with St. Louis is an integral part of her work, as is her activism.
On Wednesday, Germain joined St. Louis on the Air to share her writing process and read some of her poems. Germain recently published a chapbook titled “When The Ghosts Come Ashore,” contributes to several different publications (including ALIVE magazine, locally) and is now working on a full-length book of poetry.
Much of her work focuses on the historical and contemporary experiences of people of color, activism and resistance — and it is deeply personal.
You may also recognize Germain from her Twitter handle, @jaykayG, where she shares thoughtful and incisive commentary, which she says often forms a quasi-first draft of the poems she crafts into specific forms and narratives.
The manuscript for Germain’s chapbook was originally completed in July 2014 and focused greatly on reimagined conversations with historical figures of resistance.
“I was interested in thinking about a narrative in which ghosts we push back on historic narratives could come back,” Germain said. “What if time wasn’t linear? What if it is cyclical? What if those ghosts, those ancestors, those past events could come back and directly influence how we see the world, how we interact with the world now? Those ghosts are a calling back to that history and bringing it into a present space.”
One such historic figure, which still plays a prominent role in a series of poems in the book, is Nat Turner, an enslaved African American who led one of the most famous slave rebellions in Virginia in 1831. Germain shared a poem during the segment titled “Nat Turner Goes Vacationing in D.C.”
Almost directly after Germain submitted her original manuscript for the book, protests in Ferguson broke out following the police shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. Germain, then a full-time student, joined the protests each night.
When she went back to edit the manuscript after it was accepted by Button Poetry later that fall, she realized she wanted to rearrange the poems to include her own experiences of protest, social media and living in St. Louis during that time.
Germain said she thinks back on those protests as “a sort of sociopolitical shift across our country and across our world in the way people think of resistance.” That makes her more recent poems pair well with the historic narratives of her original manuscript.
On the program, Germain shared another poem from that period of time titled “How America Loves Ferguson Tweets More Than the City of Ferguson (Or Any of the Eighty-Nine Other Municipalities in St. Louis).” Listen to Germain read the poem aloud here:
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