If This is True, What Else is True? Jesse Parent Interview

Jon Heimer, A&E Editor


If you are a person who is fond of listening to amazing speeches or inspirational youtube videos, then Jesse Parent is for you. Jesse recently became huge on the internet with a video called “To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter” which has even been promoted by Upworthy.com. The video is of Jesse performing a poem he wrote of the same title.

Recently, Jesse Parent agreed to an interview with the Spur. He was asked several questions relating to his craft and general advice he had for aspiring writers, but really his answers can be taken and applied to any professional field.

The Spur: What is the first step you take when you are starting to write a new piece?

Parent: Usually some sort of prompt. It can be something physical or just whatever idea is floating around in my head. I keep a list of ideas that come into my head, and I will sometimes refer back to that list and see if there is anything interesting. I will try and use an improv maxim I learned many years ago: “If this is true, what else is true?” That can usually lead me down some interesting paths.

The Spur: How do you decide what you are going to write about?

Parent: A lot of time, I don’t. I just start writing. If there is something I am really fired up about, or amuses me, I will just go and start writing and see what comes out of it. If there are subjects I am interested in, I go online and start researching that subject until I see some themes or interesting facts start to come together. That’s what happened with my piece, Hooked Cross. I got inspiration from a facebook thread about symbols and started researching swastikas, and that’s when I discovered that they are referred to as hooked crosses, which made me think they must be big brothers to regular crosses.

The Spur: Is there a theme you like to work with?

Parent: I often write about family and religion/myth. My kids inspire me a lot, and the fears of parenthood are quite universal. I also enjoy a technique that Neil Gaiman uses that I find fascinating, taking one-dimensional characters from the Bible or myth, and writhing their backstory or giving them more dimensions.

The Spur: What do you do when you come to a writer’s block? Are there specific ways you get past it?

Parent: I start writing. Honestly, there’s so much judgment in slam that it is easy to start writing and second guess yourself into paralysis. As an improviser, I try to use improv techniques to deconstruct objects and give them a personal feel. When you write from your feelings, you can use your brain to keep track of other things like patterns and metaphor and other things. So if you can find a way to feel something on a subject, writing becomes a lot easier.

The Spur: Why do you write? What inspired you to become a poet and spoken word artist?

Parent: I really enjoy entertaining people. I am an improv performer and have been since 1992, and to me performance poetry is very much like doing monologues. I am not a very technical poet, and I see a lot of amazing pieces coming from more traditional, lyrical poets. I am more narrative in my approach. What is wonderful about performance poetry is that it frees me up to be angry and sad and not just funny. I like the idea of taking a reader/audience on an emotional roller coaster and giving them as much as possible in a 3-minute timeframe.

The Spur: What advice do you have for those who are looking to be poets or spoken word artists?

Parent: Look for a community that will support and push you. You don’t want to just get involved with folks who think everything is great and don’t push you to grow. At the same time, you need a mix of positive feedback to reinforce what you are doing right and should do more of. Also, read poetry. Watch poetry. Too many people who get started thinking they have some innate ability that would be somehow tainted by examining other people’s work. There’s so much history and beautiful work out there, lines that you love that do a lot of work that can give you great examples of efficiency and craft.

If you would like to watch Jesse Parent’s “To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter,” the url is: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=KcIwZ1Dth0c.

You can also find more information about Jesse Parent and his work on his personal website at: www. jesster.net/ or on his facebook page at: www.facebook.com/ jesseparentfanpage.

His personal website also includes information about purchasing his chap books and other work.