My name is Jodi Payne. Blonde hair, blue eyes, 5’3, a smile that shows teeth, a diamond stud in one nostril, a couple tattoos visible, a cross hanging from my chest. This me in a snap shot.
Now picture this. A little girl is sitting by a swing-set on the freshly cut grass. The sky is cloudy, in settles the light rain on a mid-July afternoon, sprinkles on the swing, droplets rolling down the metal frame. The little girl is crying, her eyebrows turned down and inward and mouth in a grimace. Her overalls snagged and shoe lace on her right sneaker untied. Her pigtails look lop-sided— one in a pink rubber band, one in yellow. Now the top of her blonde, mousy head is beginning to sparkle with little raindrops. She touches the side of her face as one small red line trickles from her nose onto her upper lip.
This is also me, four years old after I decided to play on the swing-set monkey bars in the rain. I slipped and hit my nose on the bar on the way down, making my nose bleed. This is also me, in a snap shot.
I could also show you other snap shots that would tell you other things about me. They could show you how much I adore— diverse people and places, telling and hearing stories. They could tell you about my family: my little brother who wants to work in the film industry or my mother who struggles with mental illness or my father who will soon retire from 25 years at a commercial airline company. They could show you how I love education— books, teaching, english, helping children learn how empowering it is to be able to read. They could tell you about where I have traveled, the ways I have wanted to grow and grow others through those moments. They could show you when I’ve listened to unheard voices, exposing my own privilege…and the times I’ve ignored them, abusing the power that I have.
I’m assuming you’ve heard of photography— how, as an art, it presents snap shots of time and history and tells the story through its lens by showing what has already existed. This blog works a little bit like that. I am in no way claiming to know the experiences of those who are not like me. The point is to be like the camera— honest, observant, a servant of the subject. I only seek to explore these experiences and to take a snap shot of them, to dig deeper into them and care enough about them to give pause. We reflect on what we see and what matters to us. I want this to matter. I want it to be reflected on. I view myself and my platform of privilege as a camera that allows me to act as a lens through which to look at the world. So it can be seen, so it can matter. My intention through this blog is to do that— to be a lens that lets people see multicultural experiences, to give voice to them without claiming to know them intimately.
Why poetry? Because it is art, it’s expressive, it allows people to be heard in a way that moves others— appeals deeply to the pathos of humanity and connects us through our capacity for feeling. Like a camera, it presents a snapshot in time— does not claim that experience, but permits it to be observed. And it is so different from other forms of writing that people are used to engaging with. I think poetry shows the camera lens, shows a moment in time unlike anything else. And it matters.
This blog is for young writers who aspire to know something deeper than themselves. It’s for the high schooler who perceives the lack of work that presents diverse experience. It’s for the youth that questions why poetry is important, what purpose it serves— why inclusion is important, what purpose it serves. It’s for the kid searching for something to resonate with…or maybe the complete opposite. If that’s you, keep reading. If it’s not, who knows, maybe there’s something here for you too.
So now that we’re acquainted, why don’t we move on, shall we? Let’s begin.