Wednesday, 30 November 2016


This month's interview is with a self proclaimed "punk poet/beat zinester" whom has now appeared in two issues of PAPER AND INK LITERARY ZINE, including the latest ninth issue, 'Bury Me in Analog'. She has been making zines since long before I even knew what they were and she just so happens to be one of my all time favourite writers...

First things first, what's your name, where do you come from, and what do you do?

Before I answer your questions, I would like to note that I am answering them from The Road. In the past six days, I have been in eight states. I've hiked in both the Rocky Mountains and the Mojave Desert, wandered around Denver at night, touched the Pacific Ocean, and had a surreal Hunter S. Thompson-esque experience in Las Vegas--and I wasn't even on drugs! In two days, I start back home, and I'll be passing through many more places and having many more adventures, including a stop at the Woody Guthrie Center in Oklahoma. I'm exhausted, and I'm going to be very broke when I get home, but it's worth it. I have had a hard time writing since the presidential election, but this trip has inspired me again.

My name is Jessie Lynn McMains, aka Rust Belt Jessie. I currently live in Racine, Wisconsin. I'm originally from Michigan, and I've also lived in Milwaukee, Chicago, the Philadelphia area, and Oakland, California. What do I do? Lots of stuff. I'm mainly a writer and zine-maker, but I also play music and make visual art and teach workshops about zine-making, poetry, and memoir. And I'm mama to a five-year-old, which takes up most of my time.

Tell me about your zine, Reckless Chants: What is it about, and how long have you been putting it out?

It's hard for me to say what my zine is about. I guess, at its core, it's a perzine, as most of the stories I print in it are from my own life. However, I also write about movies, politics, and many other things, and I have been known to include fiction and poetry along with non-fiction. I've been putting it out for either 4 1/2 or 12 1/2 years, depending on how you're counting. I changed the title to Reckless Chants in 2012, but I kept the issue numbers consecutive from its old name, Sad and Beautiful World. I put out the first issue of SABW in May 2004.

You recently put out a zine/chapbook called Dimestore Ghosts, which is an awesome title by the way, tell me a little about that one.

Dimestore Ghosts is a collection of poetry (and a couple poetic prose pieces) that I've written over the past two years. I've been focusing more on poetry than prose, career-wise, in the past year, and I realized that all the other zines I had in print were prose-only. So I chose a number of pieces that I thought flowed well together. They are about the same themes I often write about: ghosts, lovers, relationships, sadness, crushes, drinking, and America.

How long have you been writing poetry?

I fell in love with poetry at age 10, when I wrote my first-ever non-rhyming poem. I also used the word "fuck" in it and thought I was such a rebel. That sounds silly, but writing that poem showed me that poetry was so much more than what I'd been taught in school. After that, I was really into poetry for about a decade--in fact, I thought I'd probably study poetry in college--but I ended up sort of buying into the idea that prose was more practical, so I focused on that instead. And then I spent many years telling people I wasn't a poet. I'd say: "Well, I write poetry sometimes, but I'm not a Poet or anything."

Last year you were officially anointed the Poet Laureate of Racine, Wisconsin, that must have been a proud moment for you?

It was! Something of a surprise, too. I almost talked myself out of applying for the position, because I was doing the whole "I'm not really a Poet" thing again. But I went for it, not really thinking they'd choose me, and then they did. It has been an amazing experience so far, and I have lots more plans for the next year of my laureateship.

You have a book out soon from Pioneers Press' Punch Drunk Press imprint, What We Talk About When We Talk About Punk. I am so excited to read this one! Tell me about a little about it, and when exactly is it coming out?

I don't know exactly when it's coming out. I'm next in line for publication at Pioneers Press; right now they're just waiting to have enough money to print it. As for what it's about, well, it's a collection of pieces about punk. But it's not only about punk rock music. It's about living life as a punk, about punk as identity and culture. The music is there, but it's used as a lens through which to look at my own experiences. I think of it as a memoir told in brief snapshots as opposed to one long story.

Punk is obviously something that is incredibly important to you, how did you first get into punk?

I never know how to answer this question, because it was really more of a convergence of several factors that turned me onto punk, rather than just one thing. Between the ages of 12 and 15, I discovered punk in many different ways that all influenced me equally: I got into zines, I started going to local shows, I got into riot grrrl, through Green Day I discovered the rest of the late '80s/early '90s East Bay thing. And then I started listening to classic punk bands such as The Clash, and that clinched it.

What punk bands are you digging at the moment? Do you listen to much new stuff or do you prefer sticking to the classics?

I love listening to new music--punk or otherwise--but I have to say I've been somewhat out of the loop with new stuff this year. My favorite punk releases from 2016 are Against Me!'s Shape Shift With Me and G.L.O.S.S.' Trans Day of Revenge. Just today, I discovered Out of System Transfer and their new album Junkyard Golem. It's kinda folk punk/riot folk, and it's really good.

If you could only listen to three albums for the rest of your life, what would they be?

This is an impossible question, as the answer would change every day. But, if I had to choose right now, I'd say: X - Los Angeles, John Coltrane - Blue Train, and Tom Waits - Mule Variations.

Same question, but books...

Also impossible. Today's choices: Visions of Cody, by Jack Kerouac, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, by Rebecca Solnit, and The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry.

If you could get drunk with any three people, dead or alive, who would they be?

Tom Waits, Jack Kerouac, Frida Kahlo.

Aside from the release of WWTAWWTAP, what does the future hold for Jessie Lynn McMains?

Well, I'm currently working on two zines--one about the road trip I'm on right now and also about what it means to make art in the current American landscape, the other a collection of memories that I just felt the need to write about. I'm looking for places to submit a full-length poetry manuscript to. And there are several events I'm planning, including an LGBTQ+ poetry reading to raise money for the local LGBT center, a poetry walk in downtown Racine, and a poetry cabaret. All I know how to do in the face of everything terrible in the world is to keep writing, making art, telling stories. And that's maybe more important right now than it has ever been before.

I'll drink to that! Thank you so much for taking the time out of your trip to answer these questions.


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