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Photo of Robin Lee Jordan holding her chapbook THEY ATE EACH OTHER UP with the text "I love responding to art with art": 5 Questions with Robin Lee Jordan

“I love responding to art with art”: 5 Questions with Robin Lee Jordan

If you know Writing Center Coordinator Robin Lee Jordan, you know she’s a person who supports, uplifts, and celebrates young writers every day at JBWC. We’re excited to turn the tables today and celebrate Robin’s writing and the recent release of her chapbook THEY ATE EACH OTHER UP. Read on for more about the horror-inspired chapbook, upcoming release party, and Robin’s collaborative approach to artmaking.

Writing Center Coordinator Robin Lee Jordan at JBWC. Photo by Pat Cray.

Writing Center Coordinator Robin Lee Jordan at JBWC. Photo by Pat Cray.

Congratulations on your chapbook! Can you tell us a little about THEY ATE EACH OTHER UP?

Thank you!!! It’s a collection of poems I wrote while watching horror movies that was published by my friend and mentor Brenda Iijima with Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs. It features original artwork by my friend, Buffalo-based artist Josh Nickerson.

I began this practice of writing poems while watching horror as a lowkey way to help me break through some writing anxieties I was grappling with. I was seeking a more authentic version of my voice that had gotten lost somewhere along the way in my development as a writer. I took in so much advice early on that just wasn’t for me, so writing these poems was a low-pressure way to play into my voice in a familiar setting. Growing up in a family that passed down Stephen King novels like heirlooms, the place that first compelled me to love reading and writing was horror.

This isn’t the first horror-inspired art you’ve created—you’ve photographed visual interpretations of poems at the Stanley Hotel (where horror classic The Shining was filmed), and collaborated with video artist FLATSITTER to create this beautifully eerie videopoem. What about horror most inspires, interests, or intrigues you as a writer?

Part of it is this curiosity I have around horror, how it is constantly scuttling around the edges of the very things we have been told to trust most: family, home, religion, our bodies. Like many people, I’ve used horror to escape horror, or to find a way to laugh at it or vicariously battle it. I am drawn to defiance, especially defiant women, in horror movies. Whether they are the “monster” or the “victim,” whether they “win” or “lose.” I should also say I took a long break from horror for a while, tired of the gratuitous misogyny that can infect the genre. So this project was also a way to examine that and, in some ways, perhaps, resist or complicate it.

This chapbook definitely leans into those complications in really interesting ways—horror is always assumed to be dark & scary, but THEY ATE EACH OTHER UP also has a great sense of playfulness to it.

I’m so glad to hear that! One of the best compliments I’ve gotten about the book is from my friend and poet Jon Boisvert, who told me the collection was just “SO FUN … Fun is the hardest thing to make in a poem.” Writing these was fun, which was exactly what I needed, and I am so happy that playfulness came through—even if the humor is very dark!

Favorite horror movie?
An impossible question but growing up it was The Shining. My sister and I have Shining-themed tattoos so that is a workable answer, I suppose!

Robin in costume at the JBWC Halloween Bash, a favorite annual tradition.

Robin in costume at the JBWC Halloween Bash, a favorite annual tradition.

So much of your art & teaching has a spirit of collaboration, and your release party on Friday, May 13th is no exception—in addition to you reading from THEY ATE EACH OTHER UP, the event will include monster conjuring by artist Joshua Nickerson (whose illustrations appear in the chapbook) and a soundtrack of original horror movie music by local collaborators. What do you love most about collaborative art-making?

I think creative collaboration can be one of the most beautiful, loving forms of communication and human connection. I love responding to art with art. I also love how this process of creative collaboration can lead to alternative forms of “publishing.” Whether sharing work through an event like mine or making a zine with your friends at a party or creating a coin-operated art exchange in an old toy vending machine, there are so many ways to share our creations with each other that might be a little more interactive than traditional publishing, and that can foster self-determination, authenticity, immediacy, and relevance.

How does teaching & working with young writers at JBWC inspire your writing?

I have learned (and unlearned) so much about my creative practice from working with young writers at JBWC. They’re phenomenal writers with such distinct styles that inspire me to hold onto what makes my voice my own, while also being willing to stay curious and try new forms of expression. They keep me exploring how writing can be resistance, and to place real value in writing as a therapeutic practice.

The power of collaboration as a means of connection, like I discussed earlier, is absolutely informed by my experiences coordinating the workshops and programs at JBWC. I’ve seen first hand how precious creating together, even just beside each other, can be. How it compels us to keep making things, even in the face of extreme uncertainty and isolation. It can feel strange writing a poem with friends when the world is on fire around you, and yet, I know it is necessary. It’s like keeping a finger on the pulse of the world you wish could be. It feels defiant.

Robin Lee Jordan’s chapbook THEY ATE EACH OTHER UP is available now at Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs. The release will be celebrated at THEY ATE EACH OTHER UP: Chapbook Release Party on Friday, May 13, 2022 at The Lounge at Revolution Gallery.