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Staff Spotlight: Jess Walker, Poetry Editor

Submissions have officially closed for the Silhouette’s Fall 2017 edition and that means the hopeful artists, poets, and writers are left to sit nervously ringing their hands. To ease the anxiety, we’re putting personality to the staff’s names and, maybe more importantly, talking about their own creative processes.

I talked with Jess Walker, one of our poetry editors, about what poetry means to her. She’s a senior Creative Writing and Literature, Pre-Law major with an elegant command of words. I’ve had the privilege of reading the first drafts of her works and watching poems be molded, defined, and polished. I’m continuously astonished by the quiet power in every line. When I heard she was taking on the position as Silhouette’s poetry editor, I thought how very fortunate all of us on staff and the submitters were. She’s not only talented but open and warm, too: an editor with insightful suggestions and an easygoing manner. Maybe it’s because she spends so much time surfing, but she’s always sunny and breaking the stereotype that poets have to be dark and brooding.

What do you do as editor?

As a poetry editor for the magazine, I read through all the submissions and I meet with my co-editor to pick which pieces make it into the magazine. I also work with the authors of each piece in case my co-editor and I see anything that needs editing.

What about poetry speaks to you?

Expression is what speaks to me the most about poetry. I think there is something raw and powerful about poetry that isn't found in prose. There is a way of communicating and a way of being vulnerable in poetry that is just beautiful and different.

What topics do you find yourself writing about?

I find myself writing the most about pain. I think writing is an incredible opportunity for healing. There is just something about writing about the really hard things in life that brings healing and peace.

When do you feel your writing is most successful? What's your favorite piece and why?

I feel like my writing is most successful when people can connect with it. I want people to be able to read what I write and I want it to help them in some way. My favorite piece right now is a piece I wrote about my relationship with my father. It's a really hard relationship but through writing it, I was able to really release a lot of bitterness towards him. I hope that through my writing, others who have difficult relationships with their parents will be able to relate and feel a little less alone in the world.

Do you look for similar poetry when editing?

I try to not just look for similar or different poetry when I edit. I appreciate both similar and different poetry because I feel like I can understand poetry that is similar but I can admire and enjoy pieces that are different... especially when I don't feel like I could write that way.

What do you feel was your most unsuccessful work? How does a challenging piece affect your writing process?

I think my most unsuccessful work was probably a piece that I tried to write for my creative writing fiction class last semester. When I write a piece that isn't received as well as I would have liked, I tend to want to take a break from writing for a little bit.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration all around me. I try to keep my eyes open and observing while I walk, I try to find idea's in every conversation I have.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

Anywhere with hot coffee is my favorite place to write.

Do you have a set of people who you always share your work with?

I always share my work with my two roommates and occasionally, but rarely, my parents.

What do you feel are the benefits of sharing your work (in a class, a publication, etc)?

I feel like the benefits of sharing my work in class is the fact that I get feedback. It's so easy to doubt your ability or to just be afraid of sharing, however, with sharing, everyone gets to explain what they found wrong with it which is really only to help in the future.

When looking to edit a piece, where do you begin engaging with the poet and the work?

I try to simply engage with the work before even identifying the author.

I think all poets can be assured that their work is in the highly capable hands of Jess Walker. In the meantime, all artists can look forward to hearing back in the coming week on if their work has been accepted. We here at Silhouette are excited to show off all the talent at Virginia Tech!

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