Jendi Reiter is the author of the poem “The Senate Judiciary Committee Calls a Sparrow” which appeared in Lonely Cryptid Media’s recent anthology Fireweed: Stories From the Revolution. We chatted with Jendi about their thoughts on the poem, what they’re working on now, and their hopes for the future.
What are you reading, watching, or listening to? What media are you partaking in right now?
I am so happy about the “Animaniacs” reboot on Hulu. That wacky, satirical cartoon got me through some tough times in the 1990s. Pinky and the Brain are welcome to take over the world, as far as I’m concerned. I also just finished Season 4 of “The Crown” on Netflix, indulging in a lot of nostalgia for Princess Di’s 1980s fashions.
At the moment, my main reading activity is judging the North Street Book Prize for Self-Published Books, sponsored by our company WinningWriters.com. But I’m taking time off to dive into my NetGalley review copy of When the Stars Go Dark, a beautifully written thriller by Paula McLain.
Tell us about your poem. What inspired you to write this poem?
My poem “The Senate Judiciary Committee Calls a Sparrow” was written in the autumn of 2018 during the confirmation hearings on Judge (now Justice) Brett Kavanaugh, in which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers. I was beginning to contemplate FTM transition more seriously, yet chagrined by the toxic version of masculinity that had come to the forefront in America. My husband has always been a positive male role model for me, and his unselfish patience in helping rescue the trapped sparrow from our bird feeder gave me hope for mankind.
What are you hoping readers will get out of this poem?
Encouragement to look for “what’s not wrong,” as Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says, during times when hostile forces seem overpowering. I’m temperamentally a pessimist so I need that encouragement as much as anyone. Writing a decent poem means seeking out contrasts and tensions in a situation that at first seems purely negative.
What’s your favorite part of this poem?
Remembering how happy the guys at the hardware store were when the bird got free!
What are you working on now? What projects are exciting you? Where can people go to get more of your work?
I’m revising my second novel, Origin Story, which I finished drafting this summer. Origin Story is about a gay comic book writer whose work prompts him to recover memories of child abuse. It’s a sequel to my Rainbow Award winning book Two Natures (Saddle Road Press, 2016), which was the spiritual coming-of-age story of a NYC fashion photographer during the 1990s AIDS crisis. I’m also working on a third full-length poetry collection that will include “The Senate Judiciary Committee Calls a Sparrow.” Links to all my books are on the home page of my website:
What makes you feel motivated to write? Why do you continue to show up and write?
I’m actually going through a big shift in why and what I write. The ongoing fear and sorrow of the COVID pandemic has compelled me to seek more joy in the present moment instead of living for a future that may never arrive. I used to push myself more to write something impressive and morally impactful, whatever that means. Right now I just want to do what’s fun, whether that’s a Pokémon parody of “Bohemian Rhapsody” or a ghazal where every stanza ends with “penis”.
What are you hopeful for going forward?
I’m encouraged by the upsurge of activism in recent years around Black lives, voting rights, alternatives to police/prisons, and other progressive causes. We’re all exhausted after the election but I hope we will regroup soon to keep the Biden administration’s focus on these issues.