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From a Newtown Literary contributor: Belynda Jones

Writer Belynda Jones’s work was featured in issue #17 of Newtown Literary. We interviewed her about her writing and her answers are below. You can read more of her poems at The Portable Boog Reader and Formidable Woman Sanctuary.

When you think of Queens, what first comes to mind?

Mostly, I think about my neighborhood where I grew up. Going outside in the summer, from 10 a.m. until my mom yelled from the screen door for me to come inside. I think of my growing-up friends. Living in the same house with my brothers. The Q2 across the street. My next door neighbor’s dog, Buttons.

How does Queens influence your writing?

Queens influences my writing because it’s where my first memories are. I’ll always think of Queens as my childhood home. Where I learned how to ride a bike, make friends, and how to rely on myself. It’s where I discovered how much the little things mean. Like walking from the fish market on Jamaica Avenue with my mom, eating fish and chips. Going to see two movies in one day with my brother.

What is the last piece of writing you read that made you laugh or cry (or just especially moved you)?

I was reading “The Dead” to my son. Every time I read it, I always feel so overwhelmed and full and warm. I’m always amazed at Gretta’s remembrance of Michael Furey. The sadness in that particular part of the story is extremely palpable. It bleeds through.

What inspires you? Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration for your poems featured in the journal?

I am heavily inspired by my surroundings and memories. The city and its moods. The subway and its rowdy calm. I can easily sit and write near a body of water or just simply by seeing a conversation play out in front of me. Or visiting a new place or an old one. Also, definitely by reading other writers. The first book of poetry I ever read was by Nikki Giovanni. Her work really set off my interest in writing poetry.

The first poem, “Gloves On,” was written at the height of our nation boiling over in response to the murder of George Floyd. I was incredibly angry about what was going on (what continues to go on) with the Black community and police. As I wrote the poem, the names that appear are the individuals I remembered as I was writing—though this poem will never do them or the countless others I don’t know the names of, justice.

The next three poems feature themes of tenderness, warmth, and longing, and a city that doesn’t let me forget. It’s probably time to leave, though I won’t.

What does your writing process/routine look like?

It’s quite a mess and all over the place. I love writing at night and on solitary trips to museums. Or just after I’ve been somewhere new or old, and I can still feel everything about it. I’m usually awakened or touched by a memory or feeling that won’t leave me until I write about it. I like to write in the kitchen next to the window or sometimes just near all my books on the floor.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

I love to spend time with my son and explore the city. I love reading, dancing, music, and singing. Visiting museums, bookstores, and cafes. With the pandemic, visiting cafes is not possible but I daydream about sitting in them, daydreaming. I also love to walk across the bridges.

What writing project(s) are you currently working on?

I am currently working on my first book of poetry.

What should I have asked you that I didn't?

Why isn’t my first book done yet? I’m a serial procrastinator.

Thanks, Belynda!

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