In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors–Jordan Escobar
1. Tell us about your poem in Volume 21, “Necropsy.” How did it come to be?
This poem came about from reminiscing about a class I took in undergrad. I got my bachelors in Animal Science and the coursework included taking a class called Equine Science. Part of the class involved performing a necropsy of a mare. It was such a visceral experience that I think it always stayed in my head. Years later when I got a job at the zoo, someone mentioned the word “necropsy” and the memories came flooding back.
2. What excites you as a writer? What turns you off, makes you turn away or stop reading a piece of writing?
I’m interested in writing that employs innovative techniques that stretch language to its expressive limits. Poetry has an advantage in some ways in that it is iconographic—a lot can be done with the visual aspect of how text appears on the page. I’m less interested in excessively descriptive language or writing that employs overused vague clichés.
3. What are some themes/topics that are important to your writing?
I often consider Philip Levine’s admonishment that poetry provides “a voice for the voiceless.” I try to highlight marginalized experiences that don’t often receive attention in current popular literature. For much of my life, I have worked blue-collar jobs in construction and agriculture. I try to relate those experiences and the experiences of the individuals I have met along the way. In doing so, I also try to reconcile humanity’s place in the natural world—how we relate to the animals around us, what impact we leave on the landscape and what impact it leaves on us. I’ve recently become enamored with the idea of “inherent geographies” whereby we carry with us constantly where we’ve been, the physical reality of how land has shaped us, and how we continue to change with it.
4. What books, writers, art, or artists inspire you and your work? Do–or have–you had any mentors in your writing life?
I try to live by the principle that in order to create good art you have to consume good art. Poets that inspire me are Larry Levis, Philip Levine, James Dickey, Atsuro Riley and Ocean Vuong, among others. I love the landscape paintings of Homer Winslow and photographs of Ansel Adams. I also find the music of French impressionist composers like Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, and Erik Satie to be particularly enlightening. My writing mentor is the poet Kevin Clark, who was my undergraduate professor, and has been a critical driving force in my continued desire to pursue writing.
5. What does your creative process look like? How does the environment you are in shape your work or where do you like to write?
For each piece of writing, the creative process looks different for me. I seldom write in the same place each time. Much of my idea generating comes from being out in the physical world, whether working or simply hiking about, and then refining those experiences. Some times this act of refining can occur in the moment, which is why I often carry notepads with me. I can recall several occasions working on a farm, shoveling or driving a tractor, and hurriedly scribbling down a line of a poem down before moving on. For me, writing is an active process and one moment can inspire another. The cold bite of a winter morning can recall an alpine summit, gulls in a parking lot can recall a coastal rendezvous, and the smell of a barn in New England can recall riding through vineyards back in California.
Jordan Escobar is a writer, teacher, and zookeeper from Bakersfield, California. His work can be found in Blue Earth Review, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Terrain, and elsewhere.