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Mehta speaks to Chemeketa

Jessica Mehta reading poetry in the Gretchen Schuette Art Gallery at Chemeketa.
Photo by Jarret Whitenack

Jessica Mehta, a poet and author from Oregon, recently came to Chemeketa to share her work with the community.

Mehta has written numerous books of poetry and one novel. She has received recognition and rewards for her work. Most of her work has been in the form of poems of all shapes and sizes, but her one and only novel—The Wrong Kind of Indian—won gold at the 2019 Independent Book Publisher Awards.

“Well, poetry has always been my first,” Mehta said. “It’s my most natural means of communicating and always has been. People say, ‘I have a book in me,’ OK. It was true. Um, I wrote it. That’s gone. It’s done.”

Writing comes in many forms and each person will have a unique style and form that works well for them. And every person has a different reason for writing the way they do.

“I write for myself, but I’m obviously going to write about my own experiences and as a Native American woman who grew up with a lot of the disparities faced by indigenous populations,” said Mehta. “I wrote about the opioid crisis and about mass incarceration…I’ve been called an activist poet or political poet recently. I don’t consider myself that. I’m not trying to get anything across except what is inside me at the moment that needs to be said.”

Mehta uses writing as a way to process and share her emotions and the events that happened in her life. Her work is not made to appeal to everyone; instead, it’s meant to express herself. Her poems are short and powerful and Mehta feels the same way when it comes to writing them.

“Poems come fast and demand to be told in that instant, whereas fiction or novels, that’s kind of a marathon process that just doesn’t resonate with what I need as a writer,” Mehta said.

When Mehta came to Chemeketa, she brought along with her a new technique for displaying her poetry. Her work is presented in a virtual reality space where it is shown in a unique environment representing visually the feelings within the poem.

“If the VR goes to any kind of literary event, that’s what people are drawn to…and I believe people just want to consume in general via technology,” said Mehta. “You know, ebooks. Maybe people are reading poetry ebooks, probably not that much.”

Chemeketa Writes is bridging the gap between author and audience. Sharing her work directly with others allows more people to experience her art in a more immersive way, presented as Mehta intended it and sharing the feelings that come from the author.

Chemeketa Writes brings in a different author each term to share their work and host a workshop to help students and the community learn about different forms of writing.

“This is kind of a uniquely collegiate experience, right,” Tammy Jabin, the Chemeketa Writes program coordinator, said, “that you get to read somebody’s work and then the author comes to your class and you get to talk about the work that the author wrote with the author. So it’s a great experience for students.”

You can find out about Jessica Mehta and her upcoming events at https://jessicamehta.com/

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