Poets of the Week: Jesse Parent and Tasha Receno
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Poets of the Week: Jesse Parent and Tasha Receno

When performing, do you have a ‘go-to’ poem that you always throw?

Poets of the Week: Jesse Parent and Tasha Receno
Jesse Parent and Tasha Receno

We have concluded yet another month of interviews. Missed an interview? You can catch up on all the interviews here. Stay tuned for a few more months of awesome interviews with awesome poets.

This week, I sat down and talked to two extraordinary poets: Jesse Parent, nerd, comedian, and arguably one of the world's greatest parents (pun intended), and Tasha Receno, strong, beautiful, and fierce Canadian poet with a heart of gold. Here's what they had to say about poetry, life, tattoos, and more! Keep reading.

Q: How long have you been writing poetry and/or performing?

Jesse Parent: I started with improvising poetry after I was inspired by a group called Floetry that I saw on HBO's Def Poetry. I had wanted to develop a musical improv form that didn't necessarily rely on instruments. At the time I was teaching an open improv workshop called "Four Weeks a Form" in downtown Salt Lake City where we practiced established improv formats or tried to create them. After some development, I came up with a show I called "The Hook" after a line in Taylor Mali's "How to Write a Political Poem"

and toured it to different festivals. In 2006, I was awarded the distinction of being named an Artistic Associate of the Chicago Improv Festival for my work, and I started to wonder where I could next take this format.

In December of 2006, our local slam hosted an improvised poetry slam so I decided to check it out. I was the only one who actually improvised anything, so I started writing down some of the monologues I remembered doing from "The Hook" shows and slamming with "poemed up" versions of those. In 2007, I made the Salt Lake slam team and went to Austin for the National Poetry Slam and what I thought was just going to be a research project turned into a passion for performing spoken word.

Tasha Receno: I’ve been writing poetry since I was in high school, give or take 6 years. And I’ve been performing for about 3 years. That was when I went to my first open mic where really read my own work in front of a crowd.

Q: When performing, do you have a ‘go-to’ poem that you always throw? If so, what poem?

Jesse Parent: I'll do a poem called "Hotbox Love"

because I have a good time performing that poem. I get to talk about farting and being disgusting but also about what true love is and what it means to be in a lifelong relationship.

Tasha Receno: I think I always have a current go-to, but it changes depending on what I'm going through in life at the time. Sometimes a specific poem will be my "go to" for a few months; sometimes it's weeks. I pull from what's current in my life and what I think would be current in other people's lives. Also I have different go-to poems for different occasions/slams/audiences. It really depends what the gig is. I have various poems I pull up for different scenarios and moods.

Q: Do you have a favorite poem, either yours or someone else’s?

Jesse Parent: Rachel McKibbens' "Central Park, Mother's Day"

always gets me. When I first saw that performed, it made me want to quit slam it was so good. It's one of the first poems I show to new students of mine and it holds up so well.

Tasha Receno: There are lines that will stick with me forever from different poems that will sometimes float down my brain like feathers, sometimes scream like alarms - not usually entire poems, but just really beautiful moments from them. I draw from a lot. I read fiction, non-fiction, books in Spanish, short stories by people like Raymond Carver. I'm always reading like 5 different things at the same time.

Q: If you had to tattoo a poem or part of a poem on you, what would you choose and why?

Jesse Parent: Most likely "Everything I say is a spell" from Angel Nafis' poem, "Gravity." The whole poem is great, but that one line haunts me. I can hear her saying it every time I read it. And just the idea of transforming the world with language is a necessary reaffirmation for writers. Danez Smith actually got that entire poem tattooed on his back, that's how good it is.

Tasha Receno: Couldn't do it! I think tattoos are beautiful on people and I love finding out the stories behind them, but I can't picture myself with one. I said I'd never get one until I was certain I needed it and the idea of having one consumed me and I don't feel that way now. There's nothing I think I'd want to see on me forever, yet.

Q: Who are your biggest fans and supporters?

Jesse Parent: My wife and kids. They are the ones who have to deal with my time commitments, and they still love me. One of my happiest times with slam was attending WOWPS in Denver and getting to bring my whole family. It was especially important for me to have my daughter see and hear these strong female performers. My kids may never get into poetry slam, but it means the world that they come with me and tell me they're proud.

Tasha Receno: My parents, all the way, and my brother. My family. My relatives from El Salvador who can't even understand most of what I'm saying. Blood is a beautiful thing. Also, my girlfriend. She is always trying to promote me and push me and do whatever she can to watch me do what I love. Love is also a beautiful thing.

Q: Aside from poetry, what do you enjoy doing?

Jesse Parent: I like a lot of nerdy things. I have a degree in Computer Science from the same school I met my wife at, so we both like to nerd out with each other. My kids are the same way and we'll pick projects to do together like building a computer or a workbench or other stuff. Aside from that, I have done improv comedy since 1992 and that will always be my first love and what I feel I am best at. I also enjoy weightlifting and have dipped my toe into the CrossFit world, but part of me wants to go back to training in mixed martial arts, instead.

Tasha Receno: Reading—books have always been a comfort. Playing games like Mario Kart and Mario Party and Super Mario - that makes me quite happy. I also always run to my nieces, Andrea and Bella. They just have this ability to make the entire world go silent and that's a powerful thing for which I will never be able to thank them enough. I sometimes also run to my parents house to see my dog, Lola - her super power is making the world feel warmer. I sketch and paint to clear my head as well. I'm also a huge Zumba fan!

Q: What are you most proud of, poetic or otherwise?

Jesse Parent: Poetically, it is my poem "Hooked Cross." It's the work I have done that I'll admit is a poem, the rest are monologues. Writing it actually came from an experience I had performing an improv show at a rodeo in Nevada. But in general, having kids that are healthy, smart, and care about service with my amazing wife and partner are hard to beat.

Tasha Receno: Poetically, just that I have been able to see my weaknesses and not run from them, and turning my struggles into poems has helped me feel not so alone and has helped me deal with a lot of things. Also, knowing it's not just about me and the reactions and conversations I've had with some people have meant so much to me. Also being the first Latinx to win the title of Vancouver Poetry Slam Champion was a big thing for my family and me. Otherwise, I'm just glad I stayed true to myself and really wanted to do what I love every day even if it isn't easy.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

Jesse Parent: I'd like to start helping out more with growing out local high school slam poetry scene. There already has been some great work started, especially with Steve Haslam at Copper Hills High School, but I'd like to not only help out with the high school my oldest kids attend, but developing a strategy to put together a team for Brave New Voices.

Tasha Receno: Write more poems. Do more shows. Meet more artists. Do what I love. Love life with purpose.

Q: Anything else (Links, poems, comments)?

Jesse Parent: I'm just happy to be here. I am fortunate that slam has such a large umbrella it can still hold theater nerds like myself alongside poet powerhouses. I have a poem called White Jesus that I am having fun performing so please feel free to share that. But aside from that if folks want to find out more about me please visit my website.

Tasha Receno: You can watch some videos of me performing here, here, and here. Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

Next Week: William James and Nathan Say

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