Author Jesse Minkert of Seattle, Washington is the mad wordsmith of emotion and articulation, drawing curiosity with the intensity of the "Man in Black".
Minkert reveals a wide spectrum of cinematic, profound and often obscure storytelling in his book Shortness of Breath & Other Symptoms, a collection of micro-fiction, poetry and prosaic vignettes. Describing us all as "flies in the ointment", his take on love is like a big spoonful of cough syrup; harsh, rebellious and palpable. His outlook on life is a mixture of acceptance, resistance and understanding shaken like a dry martini just enough to coat the poetic palate.
Minkert's craft is harvested from a humorous and faceted perspective offering readers a variety of tragically off-beat and metaphorical characters. As a writer of wisdom, resolve and relevancy, he explores the textures of experience, shaking his finger at the poetry of the common conundrum.
Many of the pieces in Shortness of Breath & Other Symptoms twist our existential spine, On to the Ocean is slightly reminiscent of Kafka's Metamorphosis, while A Big Responsibility is one to carry in the shirt pocket...asking the poignant, multi-layered question,
"If the world depends on me to observe it, what happens when I forget?"
Through celebratory laughter, Jesse Minkert acknowledges the roaring dysfunction of our ironic human condition, but he never wraps reality in a bow, rather he slaps a stamp on it, with no address and hopes for the best possible destination.
Shortness of Breath & Other Symptoms is a must-have for the true literature connoisseur. A beautifully crafted, thread-stitched edition, which book lovers of all genres will find artful.
With kindness and in celebration of the upcoming Anthology In the Company of WomenJesse Minkert shares the following few poems:
The Woman in Red Rubber Boots
She wears them on the filleting linein the fish processing plant.The boots on the other women's feetare black. Hers were a giftfrom her daughter. The other womenlaugh at her and tease her in Portuguese. She doesn't mind.Her knives are sharp;her hand is quick.Fillets flip into her plastic binSnapper, cod, monkfish, sole.faster than any other bin on the line.Her red boots mean to her thatshe's the best. Let the black-booted women try to keep up.Her bin is full. She puts it downand lifts an empty.Fillets fly off the fish.
Jesse Minkert © 2011
I.Her face is fine in places,in line with other public carapaces,diminutive in its differenceto the casual array of eyes,however hard she tries.Yet her handkerchief is stainedby intimations of a sharperpattern in the grain.Days and wintersreflect themselves in skinny mirrors.Her sister won't agree.The work hurts her hands,asserts itself with blisters.A solution relieves the ache,a lotion that opens a mouthby which the orchids speak."Whom do you pretend to be,"the orchids ask the sisters,"you or you or any mother’s creatureasleep on the sofa on Valentine's Day?"The orchids ask too much.The girls prefer the crocuses,their raucous texturesburied deep below the snow.II.They laugh about the timetheir uncle fed his eyesto the angel fish.They leaped from his dish,escaped through a darkened hallwhere feathers of thecormorants had been.They lived on flakes of skin,dormant in the nest of rustthat holds a placefor the rest of us.
Jesse Minkert © 2011
Yellow currency wrapped arounda glass of beer. That was the yearthat Julius found a postage stampstuck on the heel of his boot.He wrote his address on the instepand dropped it in the boxon the corner by the bank.He limped across the street,hobbled to a table,and dropped into a seat.Here was the beer,and clinging to the glass,the lemon-colored money.It didn't look legal to Julius.He doubted he could use itto buy that narrow-brimmed,checkerboard fedoraon that blue plastic head in the windowacross the crosswalk from here.
Jesse Minkert © 2011
Reviews:Belle RandallThomas Hubbard
Do you have a website or blog?
I am planning to set up a website which will, I hope, include sound files of readings.
Which poets have influenced you the most? Why?I’ve been influenced by several artists, not all of whom were poets. My father was a painter, sculptor, and ceramist in central Texas at a time when to be such was like walking around with an extra head. He demonstrated the value of creativity as a mission, as a way to face the world. Much the same could be said of my friend Charlie Burks, a legend and a bit of a phantom in Seattle poetry. His influences were everybody everywhere, but most obviously, stand-up comedians. Listening to Charlie read was like a break with reality that turned out, when you looked at it closely, to be reality after all, just not from an angle you’d ever used before. Next in line is William Shakespeare. I spent some time as a playwright, and I was obsessed with WS for several years. Rhythms in English speech and poesy are rooted in Shakespeare, so I try to be, too. I started writing rhymes under the spell of Belle Randall who got me excited about the possibilities of rhyme in irregular line lengths and unexpected patterns. She also introduced me to Frederick Seidel. Samuel Beckett is in this group with several different hats on, playwright, writer of microfiction, and so on. Two early influences were Edward Fitzgerald and Henry Miller. Fitzgerald’s translations of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam gave me perspectives that were hard to come by in the Texas of the 1960s. Aside from the celebrations of dissipation, they provided some hard-headed talk about what one may expect of the universe. My 18-year-old self enjoyed the naughty parts of Tropic of Cancer, of course, but those vulgar passages kept being interrupted by lyrical flights and surreal pyrotechnics that were at least as stimulating, although to different glands. Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, and Carl Sagan were as important to me, ultimately, as Omar Khayyam, and for many of the same reasons. But the tone of my work is set by the influence of a grassroots tradition. If one listens carefully, one may hear Robert Johnson, Son House, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, and those that built upon their genius in every one of my poems.
Do you feel that you make more of a connection or a disconnection with others
in your work or is that dependent on the poem itself?
My work is my connection. I don’t really have enough personality to get by without it. Some of my pieces connect with a live audience instantly. These are not necessarily my best, just my most approachable, pieces. They tend to rely on cleverness, glib turns of phrase, and so on. My better pieces will connect with somebody, maybe one or two in a roomful. Poets I respect will come to me and say something. Some pieces don’t connect because they’re not that good. They need work, or to retire. Some don’t connect because I didn’t write them to connect. I wrote them to say something people don’t want to listen to, so naturally people don’t listen to these.
What are some of your favorite quotes? Yours or otherwise?Aphorisms bore me. Pithy little sayings to oversimplify any situation. I mean, life is too short, eh?
What advice do you have for young poets?
Reading is the only thing you can do that will help at all. Read things you don’t think you’ll like. When performing, speak up. Not everybody has perfect hearing. Slow down. You’ll never get paid by the number of words you can fit into a minute. Better to impress with your language than with your ability to spew.
What would you advise a young poet NOT to do?
Don’t go over the time limit, don’t ignore the guidelines, and, trust me, your sex life is not that interesting. Before you show anyone a poem, before you read a poem to someone, go over every single phrase. For each one, if you can think of a single instance you’ve heard it used by somebody else, cut it and write something that you haven’t heard anybody say ever.
Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences
Jesse Minkert lives in Seattle, Washington. He writes creative non-fiction, short stories, microfiction, novels, and poetry. He founded the non-profit corporation Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences. In 2008, Wood Works Press published a collection of Minkert's microstories and poems titled Shortness of Breath & Other Symptoms. Each summer for the past fifteen years, at Jack Straw Productions in Seattle, Minkert participates in the Blind Youth Audio Project where he teaches radio theater to visually impaired teenagers.
The micro-story "Betty and Dupree" has been accepted by the online literary journal, Tattoo Highway for publication in September 2011. http://www.tattoohighway.org
The poems "Mother Apprehension" and "Seasonal" were posted by the online journal Chantarellle's Notebook, February 2011. http://www.chantarellesnotebook.com
The poem "Tofu Supreme" was posted by the online journal Snakeskin for their food-themed issue, February 2011. http://www.snakeskin.org.uk
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