I am really excited to welcome poet, writer, and scholar Melinda de Jesus as a Woman Warrior participant. De Jesus is Chair and Associate Professor of Diversity Studies at California College of the Arts. She writes and teaches about Filipinx/American cultural production, girl culture, monsters, and race/ethnicity in the United States and her writing and editing covers a wide range of subject matter both scholarly and creative. Her chapbooks, Humpty Drumpfty and Other Poems, Petty Poetry for SCROTUS Girls’ with poems for Elizabeth Warren and Michelle Obama, Defying Trumplandia, Adios Trumplandia, James Brown’s Wig and Other Poems, and Vagenda of Manicide and Other Poems were published by Locofo Chaps/Moria Poetry in 2017. Her first collection of poetry, peminology, was published by Paloma Press (March 2018). De Jesus works in different mediums and recently created a series of poetry sculptures on mirrors for HOME: making space for radical love and struggle. She is a mezzo-soprano, a mom, an Aquarian, and admits an obsession with Hello Kitty.
1) Describe a personal challenge:
The challenge I face right now is TIME. I’m an academic and a poet, but also a Baroque singer and a letterpress printing neophyte. I’m also a mom to two kids, 12 and 8. I’m constantly fighting to find time to pursue my many artistic interests and also exercise, spend time with kids, partner, pets, etc. I need another day in my week!
2) Describe your preferred writing subject matter:
So much my of scholarly work and creative work is about Filipina America, about understanding the Pinay experience today. We Filipinas may be everywhere as OCWs in the diaspora, but we remain so invisible in Asian America, in America itself. We continue our fight to claim space for ourselves critically and artistically, to make ourselves heard. Ruby Ibarra’s phenomenal Nothing On Us is one crucial example this work happening right now.
Another aspect of my collection of poems, peminology, is the role of family and how our first relationships mold us for better or for worse throughout our lives. Exploring how family inheritances are sources of joy and sustenance but also of deep/hidden pain is a theme that connects my work as a whole.
3) Money matters–any comments on writing and the creative life?
My academic job pays for my poetry, music and letterpress interests, and enables me to pay for childcare so I can rehearse and concertize. It also gives me summers off and a sabbatical so I can’t complain. I feel fortunate to have a job I kinda like (finally!).
4) As an academic, what are some of your concerns?
As a woman of color in academia I continue to be astounded and outraged by the emotional work I am expected to perform so white colleagues and students can feel comfortable. As an ethnic studies scholar and administrator I’ve worked for years to create and be in largely people of color spaces so when these expectations arise as they inevitably do, I am forced to confront once again my institution’s deep investment in white supremacy. When do I disengage from these soul-sucking struggles? When is walking away the right thing to do? What is giving up and what is self care? In these trying times I think these are very important questions for all of us to ponder…