Sunday May 26

Howard1-Poetry Juliet P. Howard (JP Howard) is a poet, lawyer, Cave Canem fellow and native New Yorker. She has been selected as a Lambda Literary Foundation 2011 Emerging LGBT Voices Fellow. JP was a finalist in the Astraea Lesbian Writer’s Fund 2009-2010 poetry category and recipient of a Soul Mountain Retreat writing residency in 2010. Her poems are published or forthcoming in Muzzle Magazine, TORCH, Queer Convention: A Chapbook of Fierce, Cave Canem Anthology XII: Poems 2008-2009, Cave Canem XI 2007 Anthology, The Portable Lower East Side (Queer City), Promethean Literary Journal and Poetry in Performance. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The City College of New York, as well as a BA from Barnard College and a JD from Brooklyn Law School. She is the recent co-founder of Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon and blog, a forum for women writers of all levels to come together in a supportive and creative space. 


Juliet P. Howard Interview, with Nicelle Davis


I love how your line breaks enact the subject of the poem "Heart Break." What role do you think the shape of a poem plays in conveying its message?

Thank you! I think that the shape of a poem can play a significant role in conveying its message. It can add an additional layer to the poem for the reader to unravel or it can help guide or suggest to the reader what direction the poet wants to take you. Of course, the beauty of poetry is that the reader may completely read something into the shape of the poem that wasn't "consciously" intended by the poet, and that reading and/or interpretation is just as valid or authentic. While I wanted the lines of “Heart Break” to enact the topic of the poem, I also liked that the final draft allowed for the poem to be read either from beginning to end or end to beginning and that the stanzas could be read as either two distinct stanzas or could be read together from left to right across the length of the page. Like the blood vessels that pump blood into and away from the heart, the poem was ultimately able to flow in a variety of directions across the page. I really enjoyed playing with how the poem looked and read on the page. I also think the use of white/blank space coupled with the placement of words on a page and the use of line breaks, allow a poem to evolve to its fullest potential.

You create a lush sensory world in your poem "summer night in greenwich village." What might a new poet gain from implementing this technique in their own work--or what do people mean by the statement "show, don’t tell"?

Again, thank you! I think a new or emerging poet has much to gain from implementing this technique of exploring the sensory world and integrating the senses into their work. The inclusion of the sensory world in a poem allows the poet to explore sensual, often tactile images that serve to "open up a poem". By this I mean, if a poet allows his or her connection to the senses to guide the poem, the poem can potentially take on a very organic form. I was conscious of trying to include various senses when I wrote “summer night” – specifically, I wanted to explore touch, taste and of course, sight. I wanted to capture the conflict between being acutely aware of and connected to one's senses, including the power and sensuality associated with the sensory world as contrasted against the inability to satisfy or quench those sensory desires.

"Show, don’t tell" reminds me of advice Professors sometimes gave in my MFA program. Let the poem speak for itself through words/images/voice; essentially, if the poet has to tell the reader what the poem is about, then maybe the poet should rethink that poem. I think the goal poets aim for is that we seek to have our poems speak for themselves through language, images, and often times, by what goes unsaid in the poem. Sometimes the most powerful/evocative poems "show, don’t tell" through brevity of language.

Do you write for a specific reader in mind? If so, how does this change the voice and tone of your poems?

Generally, I don't write for a specific reader in mind. When I am writing a poem, I do ask myself whether I think the poem is accessible to folks from all walks of life. I think that's the best a poet hopes for, that our poems resonate with readers regardless of their background, education, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion or even age. While I am conscious of the voice and tone I use in my poetry, I only change the voice and/or tone to fit the poem. Once I've found my way into the voice of the poem, I'm just hopeful that the reader will embrace that voice once (s)he steps into the poem. I recently ended a poem I wrote with the line "Poem thank you for choosing me." I do truly believe that poems choose poets and once our creations are out in the world, we as poets are hopeful that our poems can stand on their own.



When you read this poem
let her break open your heart
she’ll plant seedlings under your aorta
pump soil through your right ventricle
inhale her breath as your lungs expand
burst open with rose satin hibiscus
when she tickles your left ventricle
a kaleidoscope of petals will stain
let her nectar saturate you
when you read this poem.
summer night in greenwich village
We sip mango margaritas
at a sidewalk café
and wait
for a warm breeze
I watch you touch the rim
of the glass, salty and wet
droplets of sweat fall
down your philtrum
You touch the nape of your neck
push unruly locks into submission
which you twist, round and round
between your thumb and forefinger
I remember I cannot touch you
so I move my hands
down the body
of the cold glass
My fingers stroke my neck
feel the cool contrast against my skin
I’d rather  rub the lime from your drink
over your yielding lips and taste that tartness
Instead we talk incessantly
push night to her bursting edge
and prepare to leave it behind us
without ever touching.