The Colorado Poet, #26, Spring 2014

Poet, Poetry, and High School: An Exchange with Jessy Randall

A few years ago, poet and teacher Linda Keller gave her students the chance to choose a poet represented on the Colorado Poets Center and write a paper on the poet and the poems.  Mary (a pseudonym) contacted Jessy Randall who saved the correspondence between poet and high school student. (Ed.)

Dear Jessy Randall:
Hello, I'm a student at Bishop Machebeuf High School. My sophomore World Literature class started studying poetry, where we were led to the to choose a poet. I have chosen you as my poet to write a research paper on analyzing a few of your poems. My teacher, Linda Keller, has assigned this paper to be due on March 19th. Thank you so much for all your time. I have a few questions to ask you.

essy RandallQuestion 1. What is the deeper meaning in your poem, "The Couch"??
Question 2. Out of all the poems you have written, which one is your favorite? Why?
Question 3. What encouraged you to start writing poetry??

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Dear Mary:
Question 1: What do you think it is?

Question 2: Usually my favorite poem is whatever I’m working on at the moment.
Right now I’m working on some poetry comics, similar to the ones found here: I’m excited about those. I’m also particularly fond of the first poem (“Thank-You Note to the Supposed Lesbian Who Stole My Boyfriend”) on this website:

Question 3: When I was in elementary school, we had a “Poet in Residence” program. One year it was Philip Shultz, and one year it was Judith Kitchen. We made a literary magazine each year. Both of these poets encouraged us to write about whatever we wanted to and not to try to please them or write in a particular kind of way. It was all so freeing. It was marvelous! At around the same time, I read Louise Fitzhugh’s novel _Harriet the Spy_, which made me start keeping a notebook, writing almost every day. I never stopped.

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Dear Jessy:
Thanks for getting back to me. So I read that poem "Thank-You Note to the Supposed Lesbian Who Stole My Boyfriend," and I loved it! It feels so real, and being in  high school I can totally relate to those relationships and dealing with jealousy of teenage girls in general.

So for your poem "The Couch," I think it relates to past memories of old friendships and of people that we use to have activities in common with. You have to remember the different people and what you had talked about so many years ago. It makes me feel kind of sad, knowing that life is going by so fast, and sometimes you forget who you truly are. Sometimes we jump around to different friendships, but we forget about our old friendships. That’s how your poem made me feel. I really enjoy reading your writing pieces, I can relate to so many of these!

I really enjoy writing poems, but I'm not sure if I could make a career out of it. So in the mean time, I'll sit back and let life take me. I need to enjoy life while I'm still in high school.

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Dear Mary:
 Well, I love what you said about “The Couch” and I can’t think of anything to add. Well, yes I can (that’s me all over). Perhaps that last bit in the poem, about deciding whose lap to place your head on, that might be about figuring out whom to marry, or settle down with. If I remember right, that poem came out of a visit to a furniture store where there were a lot of couches in a huge room. I didn’t really want any of the new couches and would have liked, instead, to be able to visit all the couches of my past, couches from my house and other people’s houses. And I think possibly at the time I wrote the poem I was thinking seriously about marriage. But you didn’t need to know any of that to have such a perfect response to the poem.

Now as for a career in poetry, let me give you another way to think about it. What if you just kept on writing poems your whole life? Nobody makes much money writing poems. It’s not really a job, being a poet. As my friend the poet Aaron Anstett says, “Poetry isn’t a way to make a living, but it is a way to live your life.”

To answer your questions from the other email – background and achievements – I grew up in Rochester, NY with a single, working mom and a younger brother. I always loved to read. When I was nine years old I wrote a poem about the death of my hamster. It was a very sad poem. Luckily for all of us, it has never been published. When I was in high school I worked on my school’s literary magazine and made lifelong friends. (My young adult novel The Wandora Unit is about friendships and romances in the literary crowd in high school.) Most of those friends no longer write poems, but some do, at least occasionally. I’ve published several chapbooks (small collections of poems), one full-length collection, and a YA novel, and I’m the co-author of a collection of collaborative poems. I have a new poetry collection forthcoming from Red Hen Press this year, Injecting Dreams into Cows. You can see pictures of the books and get more information at If your school library would like a copy of the YA novel, please let me know – it’s out of print, but I have some copies and I could give your library one, if the librarian wanted me to. (Since I’m a librarian, I know that libraries don’t always want the books they receive as gifts.) Perhaps your librarian would want to see the review of the book in Bitch Magazine,

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Dear Jessy:
Thanks Jessy for the background information. I visited New York this summer and I absolutely loved it!! Wow I didn't expect "The Couch" to have been started like that. And I decided that I would write for fun to show my true feelings, and not make it a career like you said. For the library book, I'm sure my library would love a copy of your book, but I'll double check with the librarian and get back to you. Thanks again.

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2 Randall poetry comics:

CPC Interview with Randall, 2013