When he was young, Jay Rafferty tried to write fiction, but it didn’t ever stick. Then, he shifted focus to poetry and hasn’t looked back. Rafferty admitted to some of the turn toward poetry was an attempt at creative catharsis. A self-proclaimed angry teenager, poetry became the most fulfilling way to redirect that energy. It eventually evolved into a passion and he studied the artform at university.
“The best feedback I got from Dr. Sewell was about the opening poem of Holy Things called ‘Orgasm,'” Rafferty said. “He quoted Monty Python’s The Life of Brian and told me I was a “very naughty boy.” One of the best compliments I’ve ever got.”
His collection, Holy Things, began as a dissertation project while in undergrad and has gone through a number of iterations. There were different poems, different styles: it was “very experimental.” But the project itself was also very informative; Rafferty said, for instance, that he realized he could not “for the life of [him] write rhyming poetry that is passable, let alone good.” He also realized how important tone is, be it in an individual poem or the entire collection. In fact, observing a change in tone in his poem “An Open Letter to the Pope” caused him to restructure the collection so that it had a different flow.
“I think my poetry fits into one of three categories: reasonable rage, sound satire, or irreverent humor,” he said. His collection certainly straddles all three, overlapping at some points as he addresses social issues, relationships, and even religion. It’s clear that Rafferty is still thoughtful, even while being less-than-serious.
After those edits and various pitches to independent publishers, Rafferty mentioned the collection to a friend working at Broken Spine. “He’s [Alan Parry] a great editor to work with, responsive and critical without being cruel. He knows what it means for a writer to see their print for the first time and is incredibly responsible with that power.”
Rafferty also shared creative power with his partner Allie, who designed the cover art. So when he finally got to hold the finished project, it was an exciting moment he could share with her. “[Having] new work you’re happy with is a very exciting feeling.” Also exciting was sharing the work, especially with his family, who teased him about some of the raunchier aspects of the book. “It gives me so much joy seeing it in the world with so many people.”
While the satisfaction of having a published collection is certainly great, Rafferty was quick to point out that writing poetry is what he knows best and enjoys most. He believes that catharsis is key, and when it takes the form of something creative, like poetry, it’s productive and helps not just the writer, but those around as well.
Holy Things is available online through @BrokenSpineArts and I’ll have a review of the collection up on Thursday! If you do get your hands on a copy, Rafferty invites y’all to tag him in book-selfies; he can be found @Atlas_Snow on Twitter and @SimplyRedInTheHead on Instagram.
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