Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Jacinta V. White is the founder and director of The Word Project (TWP)—a company dedicated to using poetry writing as a healing tool. She has spent 15 years working with organizations and individuals, using poetry as a catalyst for self-discovery and expression. In 2015, Jacinta launched Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing as a publication of TWP to give others the opportunity to have their work reflecting their healing journey published.
An award-winning poet, Jacinta has had a chapbook, broken ritual, published by Finishing Line Press (2012). She is also a NC Arts Council Teaching Artist, and for several years she served as the Greensboro Public Library’s Project Co-Director for its LifeVerse Project—an initiative she helped develop that encourages, trains and supports volunteers to go into the communities of Greensboro’s older adults to lead them in capturing their life stories through verse or poetry. This initiative received an award from the American Library Association in 2011.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I wrote a lot as a child. Stories mostly. But, I never showed them to anyone. It wasn’t until I graduated undergrad school that I began writing poetry. The first poem I wrote was about a breakup. I shared it with a couple of friends who were pulling out lines they could relate to and I though, “Ha, there’s something to this.” I didn’t take writing seriously, however, until after my father passed in 1996. That’s when poetry became my lifeline.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
I launched Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing in January of this year with its first issue out in March. Though I’m still writing and submitting and working on another poetry collection, I had an overwhelming desire to have a place where those of all stages in their writing and living could come and share their healing journey. Snapdragon Journal has blessed me—and others I hope—in ways I can’t explain. It’s a sanctuary for art, grief of all kinds, and healing.
In addition to Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing, I’m working on a collection of poems inspired by visits to rural, historical African-American churches in the South.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
I can write pretty much anywhere depending on the stage of the creation. Home is the most challenging place for me to write because I’m distracted by everything that “needs” to be done: laundry, cleaning, sleeping. I like to find a corner in a coffee shop, mostly, and occasionally look up at those in conversation, reading, or sipping their lattes.
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
There’s no typical writing day for me as I have a full-time job. If I can have a day to write, mostly, it’s a Sunday, which may start with an early church service followed by plopping down at a coffee shop with my journal and notebook and staying there until my stomach absolutely forces me home for food.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
I’m currently working on a collection based on visits to old/historical African-American rural churches in the South. I keep a notebook to collect my observations and thoughts. I look for that which may go unnoticed by others or what many may want to ignore and jot down those things: the minister whose sweat falls into the communion glass while praying over it; and that which we may have forgotten like those buried in the cemetery next door. And then I write from that the following Sunday morning. I’m blessed to have a poet who I can send my writing to for critique.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
Why do I write? To stay connected to myself, my Spirit, others. To know my heartbeat and breathe.
Why do I facilitate poetry-writing workshops and why have I started Snapdragon Journal? To give others the opportunity to share their soul and story in a way that honors both as best as possible.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
History inspires me. Imagining how things were.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
Learning how to balance my work life with my writing and projects is a daily challenge. I have moments where I want nothing more than to pour into the writer inside—to wake and move at my natural rhythm. But, I’m also blessed to have the type of day job that I do, to meet many people, to be able to assist them on their professional journey, where I don’t have to worry as much about finances as I did when I was a full-time writer.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED?
I wish I had the confidence of a writer when I was younger. I wish I had known you can make it as a poet—with a lot of dedication, work, sacrifice, and vision. I didn’t have the same confidence in my writing and in my potential as I do now.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC OR PROFESSIONAL VISION?
My professional vision is to be a catalyst for others’ understanding and embracing art as a natural and necessary place from which their wholeness is realized. I want people who come to one of my workshops (writing or professional) to fall more in love with their artistic/creative self and to see it as something that contributes to their life and the world around them. I believe in the value of craft and I also know there is a place needed for pure expression. As an artist, I hope to contribute to and in some way lift up, in respect, all artists who are honest, vulnerable and brave.
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHOR?
Hands down, it’s Toni Morrison.
WHICH FEMALE AUTHORS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Here’s my list (the first 4 are poets):
Thank you, Jacinta V. White!
— Nicole Melanson
* Author photo by John H. White
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