Jim Whiteside writes poetry that makes you wonder if the speaker is really a ghost. Combining moments of impermanence with moments of intimacy, his debut collection Writing Your Name On The Glass makes the reader focus on the waxing and waning way in which people experience longing. Be it the longing for a past life, relationship, or place, Whiteside’s poems orbit around these complicated emotions in a deeply physical way.
“One of the things that’s really beautiful about poetry is that poetry is a conversation happening across time and space,” Whiteside says. And the emotions inside his poems continually talk to one another, despite the setting or time. “Love poems and out-of-love poems have been written forever,” he says, “and that is the classic part. The contemporary part is that I’m adding some nuance by writing from a queer perspective. I’m writing poems that hold very contemporary things, such as references to an electronic band or the fact that the titular poem exists because we live in a world where Grindr exists.” This connection to the past and the present holds true as he traverses love through technology, music, and life in 2019.
Whiteside’s work also focuses on the body as a central image. From bodies in physical love to bodies spliced with the natural world, Whiteside subverts traditional expectations of the roles that bodies play. “It’s really hard to write about love without writing about the body. The body is completely central to the act of love,” he says. “Because I’m writing from a particularly queer perspective, representing the queer body as a queer body is super important.” Whiteside also focuses on the notion of masculinity in relationship to love, the body, and how all of these deeply intrinsic parts of human nature affect our relationships with ourselves and others.
As Whiteside prepares to pursue a big move, he took some time to sit down with Tone Madison and discuss his time crafting his first book and time spent in Madison. This interview was produced in partnership with The Adroit Journal, which is also running a text version.
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