The Colorado Poet, Issue #37, Fall 2023

The Politics of Sin: Jason Masino on his first published hybrid/poetry collection: Sinner’s Prayer

Jason Masion Jason Masino is a poet and artist who recently received his MFA from the Regis University Mile-Hi MFA program.  He has published in numerous journals including Inverted Syntax, South Florida Poetry Journal, and Cultural Daily.  His MFA thesis was quickly published by Passengers Press as a debut hybrid poetry collection.

KW: Jason, your potent book, Sinner’s Prayer, is not, I think, for the faint-hearted. (My 90 year old mother would have passed out on the kitchen floor.) You, almost ruthlessly, go through the seven sins, sins, interestingly enough, through which you implicate yourself, not just the harsh world that a person both biracial and queer must navigate. It was Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith who said in a Vox interview “that the fact of language, even the beauty of language, is secondary to the larger work of the poem, which I think is to enter into that uncharted emotional territory or to bring us — with a greater sense of courage and resourcefulness — toward the things that are just messy, overwhelming, rife with conflict or contradiction.” I think this beautifully describes what you do in your book. I am thinking about the many young poets out there— regardless of race, culture, sexuality, gender-identification— who so want to write the hard book you wrote, but don’t know how to find the courage to do it nor the kinds of structures in their poetry that would allow them to share such private woundings and rage creatively, intelligently, and evocatively. I guess I’m thinking about the craft of your book. Talk about some of the writing techniques you used to create the poems and the book itself that allowed you to express yourself so openly and artistically.

JM: Wow—thank you for your kind words! The book was definitely difficult to write, but also necessary. Most of these poems and pieces were written between 2016 and 2021. As you probably know, lots was going on then: Hillary & Trump/”The Racial Reckoning”/Pandemic. Plus, I was going through a major career shift, starting graduate school, moving back into the home I grew up in and reconnecting with family members, dealing with relationship woes and unrequited love, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I also had a plethora of mental health struggles and messy interpersonal struggles to work through. I was a hot mess.

The only way I knew how to work through this mess was to write. Because of the remote/Zoom nature of that time, I was meeting with a dedicated writing group multiple times a week for about a year, so we channeled our pain and whatnot into poems. I was listening to lots of music, bingeing movies and tv shows, consuming all types of art, experimenting with recipes, and all these mediums influenced the pieces in Sinner’s Prayer. Some pieces are written as literal cooking recipes. Some are dictionary entries. Some are nursery rhymes. Some are Virginia Woolfe-like stream of consciousness essays. Whatever I saw or needed as a catalyst or outlet at the moment, I used.

KW: In your second hybrid essay on “Hybridity doesn’t exist,” in your hybrid book, (I’m sensing a little sly humor here), you claim your own “hybridity.” I find myself fascinated by the “hybridity” of your language in this book: the quick beats of hip hop and rap, the academic “intelligentsia” of your essays and, especially,  footnotes, your literary epigraphs and allusions, the idioms of the everyday grocery list and cultural icons like Buffy the Vampire Slayer . . . the list of your play with vocabulary and voice could go on and on.  The poet Carl Phillips, in his essay,” A Politics of Mere Being,” suggests that “in the context of a contemporary poetry largely governed by the demotic use of language — i.e., sentences that reflect how the majority of people in this country speak on a daily basis — a choice to use sentences that, in their inflectedness, sound other becomes a potentially political act.” It’s quite obvious that you could have chosen to write your poems in as traditional a way as you wanted to. Are your choices in word, syntax, form, and voice purposefully a political act, and what makes those choices political to you? 

JM: The reason I love poetry is because there are so many rules and at the same time, there are no rules. This is political to me, and I’ve always been political. The fact that I exist is political. I have an immigrant Asian father and mixed African American mother. I’m queer. I constantly find myself in white-dominated spaces and excel in them. I’m outspoken. I constantly feel like I “shouldn’t be” but love the feeling.

I feel the same about my writing. It’s evocative, explicit, and is constantly blending genre, form, and anything else I can think of to create something else. I have people criticize my work, yet I have eighteen publications and counting. I have a book out. People reach out to me for interviews, speaking engagement, and the like, so I’m clearly in demand. This, to me, feeds into my political nature.

KW: This is your first poetry collection and it’s published by Passengers Press, a member of the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses [clmp].Tell us about your process in getting your first collection published. Easy? Hard? How’d you do it?

JM: A combination of all the above. Originally, I wasn’t going to publish my manuscript and was going to just graduate from my MFA program and use my degree indirectly as part of the nonprofit work I do. The final graduate seminar I took at Regis was led by Suzi Q. Smith, an amazing poet and all-around person, who really inspired me to package my manuscript and send it out to publishers and presses.

I was under the impression that it would take months to a year to hear back and get it out to the world, and that I’d receive many rejections in the process. It took three months and the first press to get back to me was in love with my book. The process to getting it into physical form was definitely tedious and I wish I’d reached out to folks I knew who’d gone through the process beforehand, but it was definitely worth it.

KW: MFA in Poetry from Regis University, first poetry-hybrid book publication, a visual art piece, “Vision”: A Mixed-Media Collage” , recently published on Public Allies . . . what’s next in store for you?

JM: I’m working on a follow-up to Sinner’s Prayer titled Confession Booth. It’ll be primarily nonfiction, so it’s taking a lot longer to write. I currently have about two of the ten or so pieces written, but my proposal is written, and I plan to start querying agents in the next few months. I loved having my first book published with a smaller, independent press, but want my second book published on a larger scale. I’m also writing and submitting poems to journals and planning to attend a few fellowships and residencies next year. I’ll also be doing a few live readings around Colorado in the upcoming months.

Interview by Kathy Winograd