Gervanna Stephens

We got an interview with Gervanna Stephens about her piecesConditional templateandJamaican Duppy Story: A Sketchin Issue Seven!

Gervanna StephensThe imagery in these pieces are just striking. “wear the scalps of the restless” was one line that really stuck with me. Can you give a little background behind both poems?
In my home country of Jamaica, folklore is prevalent in the culture & one such is the ‘rolling calf’ story. While writing this poem as a metaphor for toxic masculinity & supremacy in all in its forms I thought of war and how the victors often scalped their enemies to display as trophies their win or dominance. “the restless” are those victims whose stories never get told or believed if they are told, because history is written by the victors, which is often stringently patriarchal.

When you’re in a writing slump, what do you go back to? What kind of artists or poets or writers, or even pop culture, do you find inspiring?
I go back to music, fanfiction & silly TV shows like The Golden Girls or Steven Universe. I love Janelle Monae as an artist because she transcends the very idea of what music is and should be. I also revert many times to Emily Dickinson’s lyric “I am nobody! Who are you?” because when I don’t write or can’t write I feel as if I am on the outside of the community, of the words & of the feelings they ought to convey. Honestly though, any writing slump I have can be lessened easily by reading a Chen Chen tweet, watching a Lena Waithe InstaStory or simply reading the poems I get in my email every morning from; and though these don’t necessarily force me to write they inspire me to remember to be more often than not.

Your speaker reminded me of a siren or some sort of forest spirit in “Conditional templates.” Especially with the last stanza. Is this intentional or am I reading it wrong?
You aren’t reading it wrong because poetry is subjective & the reader can interpret it any which way they like. Was it intentional? No. “Conditional templates” was my first attempt at feeling out the speculative poetry genre & your idea of the speaker as a siren or forest spirit fits perfectly with the theme portrayed: subtle otherness & disbelief in the romance of the otherworldly.

How does poetry make you feel? To read and write and share it?
This is a hard question, ha ha. Not to be clichéd, but poetry saved me. Growing up with congenital amputation was hard because people are cruel & they question & tease for no reason. I started writing my thoughts down because I couldn’t voice them any other way. I was already seen as weak physically, so I refused to speak about things that would add to that vision society had of me. Writing & eventually poetry became my outlet. I loved the fact that I could be as abstract as I needed to deal with the reality around me or totally interpret a poem in a drastically different way from the textbook or professor. Poetry was both my voice & speaker.

Do you have any previously published pieces you’re particularly proud of?
You want me to choose!? Okay, I narrowed it down to three:
“Trophy love is nothing but shiny” published by WusGood?

“On hating the Eve I didn’t know” published by The/tƐmz/Review

“Womyn is Phoenix. Is God” published by Enclave Magazine

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