Poet, artist, and entrepreneur Jasmine Mans joins Zibby to discuss her debut book of poetry, Black Girl, Call Home. She shares the journey she took through her writing history to compile this collection, the power a simple but strong message can hold, and how she realized the only thing holding her back from being a writer was herself. Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books has teamed up with Katie Couric Media and Random House to give away 100 copies of Sarah Sentilles’ book, Stranger Care! Enter the giveaway by clicking here: https://bit.ly/3jdKctA


Zibby Owens: Hello.

Jasmine Mans: Hello there.

Zibby: Hi. How are you?

Jasmine: I am well. How are you today?

Zibby: I’m good. Thank you. Your hair looks so different from your bio. Did you chop it off? What happened?

Jasmine: Those were braids. I don’t know if that’s what you saw.

Zibby: Yeah.

Jasmine: I have really long braids. It’s a Black girl thing. Braids, short hair, long hair, thick hair, thin hair, it’s a weekly thing depending on how I feel.

Zibby: That sounds great. I have hair that does nothing and that never changes and is so boring. My big excitement is, yesterday, I cut this much, which nobody would ever notice.

Jasmine: I’d notice.

Zibby: You wouldn’t, but thank you. Actually, I don’t know if I would be able to even decide. I feel like it’s hard enough to get dressed. If I had to decide on what to do with my actual hair, I think it would be one thing too many.

Jasmine: Truth be told, I have, legitimately, three hair styles: a bob, some braids, and an afro. It’s a juggle between the three. Maybe I’ll switch it every few years. It’ll become a different combination, but it’s usually that three that I navigate for an entire year.

Zibby: Wow, I love that. Very cool. We’ll just jump right into it. Why not? If you don’t mind. Jasmine, tell listeners about your collection of poems. What inspired you to write them? I want to hear all of how you included all these pop references and your line of merch. Oh, my gosh, you have so much cool stuff going on. Let’s start with the book.

Jasmine: With the book, you know, as a writer, you’re always writing in hopes that one day, it matters. People think that when you’re asked to write a book, that you just start writing then and there. Truth be told, for many writers, you have these thoughts brewing for years. You’re writing for years hoping that you get this opportunity. Oftentimes, people think that writers just start writing when they’re given the opportunity to publish a book. Often, we have these ideas brewing in our heads about what we want to write about, who we want to write about, and then when given the opportunity, how we’ll bring these thoughts together. I’ve been writing literally all my life. It’s so odd to say I’m legitimately doing what I said I’d always do. I said that I would be a writer. I gathered a lot of the writing that I’ve saved over the years and saw what I had. That gave me themes of Black girlhood, home. I wrote a lot about boys and my mother and relationships and heartbreak. I had a wealth of information around cataloging my own heartbreak. I was like, huh, these are your themes here. Then I was like, what didn’t you write about? Then I had to start breaking into the things that I didn’t write about, the things I was nervous to write about, the things that I didn’t feel educated enough to write about. Then I kind of became a student of my own project. I was like, all right, I know that I’m going to say these things. I have to perfect those things, but then now I have to investigate and dig in over here. Then I’m going to put all of that together. That’s essentially, in a nutshell, how we got Black Girl, Call Home.

Zibby: Wow, that sounds like a very complicated interweaving of lots of stuff. The thing about, usually, finished works, you’re absolutely right, it’s always in people’s heads for a long time, all these things. By the time you get it on the page, sometimes it’s in perfect shape. I feel like the writing itself is just one piece of the creative process.

Jasmine: Right. It’s a dynamic piece. It’s so many details. I say all the time that each poem requires something different. I can write a one-line poem. It’ll literally be seven words. I’m staring at those words for days trying to figure out if the “and” is important or if the “and” is not important. Then are poems where I wrote as a character. It was written in voice. It was a monologue. It needed no editing, no changing. I’m realizing that completion is this feeling, but it’s also, you don’t have to honor it. I got a lot of anxiety when my book was published because I was like, it wasn’t perfect. I could’ve done this, this, and this better. It’s just like, it’s done now.

Zibby: Yeah, sorry, too late. Next time. Volume two. Do you have more poems in the pipeline and ready to go? What are you thinking of tackling after this collection?

Jasmine: I just shared with my agent, some new work. I was nervous on many levels. I was nervous about if it would be as good as what I wrote before, then thinking about the fact that it was a collection of work that I’ve written over the years. Now what I’ll publish next will be who I am now and on, and hoping that that’s good enough. It’s weird to reach a moment of accomplishment. I finally became a debuted author, and now restarting the process of being new and being a student again and trying to be satisfied with yourself.

Zibby: How did you decide to not only write poetry, but sell all this cool stuff? I feel like most authors do not have this. This is all so cool. Although, a lot of it is sold out. Some of it, I feel like I should only say on my sex podcast, which I also have, by the way. I feel like this should be merch for my sex podcast.

Jasmine: on that podcast as well. I have my line of merch. Then I own this company called Buy Weed from Women. Truth be told, it’s so funny to say this, but it all started with the concept of messaging. Before I am a designer or a businesswoman or a strategist, I’m a messenger. I think that one thing that a poet can do better than anybody is to wrap and harness a message. So many of us have brilliant thoughts and ideas, but the messenger is the one who’s going to harness the message. What you see in my merchandise is these really solid, quick messages that you hear, that you can remember, and that can stick with you. They’re all very short. What I learned from Instagram and also in my desire to be a good messenger and an entrepreneur is that you want to take the message that hits hard, the punchline that will sit in the heart, and put it on things that can live in the home. You see the tote bags and T-shirts and coffee mugs and candles. These things, they’re not necessarily Jasmine Mans’ poem. People are not buying it because they’re in love with my poetry, but because they’re connected to the simple message that sometimes they just want to be remembered or that black girls don’t die, these short-form messages that can stick with you that are not the long poem. They’re not the book. Some of these people who got the message don’t have the book. One thing that I learned from being a poet is that if you can be clear about your message, you can also then be clear about your audience and make people fall in love.

Zibby: Wow. I wonder where the line falls between poet and copywriter. It’s a fine line. Poetry is obviously much more literary, but there’s something similar in the use of words in such an — what’s that word? — economious way, or whatever, where you have to be so careful. “Stop stealing art from Black girls” on your tote bag. Then you have these beautiful poems which I had all dogeared and ready to read out loud during this podcast, I have to tell you. We rescheduled. Now I’ve packed up the book, and I can’t find it. I feel terrible. I had all these really insightful points to make about different poems. I’m not going to make them today, but just know I had them. I had the thoughts. I read the poems. It was beautiful. I’ve become, actually, to be honest, much more into poetry since I’ve started this podcast, as a form. I hadn’t really read it since high school. Now that I keep getting these collections, I’m like, ooh, poetry. I think it’s so perfect for everyone’s short attention span right now too. You can read a book of poetry in not that much time. Yet you get all of that literary feeling. It’s like taking a shot instead of having a glass of wine.

Jasmine: Yes, absolutely. The shot is the full experience, where the glass is more so a journey. One thing about poetry is that each poem is a story. You can open the book, read one poem, and close the book, and then open it three weeks — you don’t to be committed to this linear idea of finishing. That means that the book can journey with you. It’s also a less-intimidating process for a new reader or a reader who’s not sure if they like poetry. Then I’m just trying to get people to understand, I think every poet is trying to get people to understand that this isn’t like your auntie’s Westernized poetry class. Poetry sounds very, very different. You really can understand the literal voices of so many different cultures just by diving into poetry. I’ve learned about a Vietnamese American boy by way of his poems or learned so much about Muslim women by way of their poems because it had voice. Poetry is different. It’s very different from what we’ve been taught.

Zibby: Yes, absolutely, and almost song-like too. It could be a song. It could be a poem. I feel like half these things are quotes you’d want to put up on your bulletin board or something like that. Then of course in your collection, you wove in so much timely stuff too. I know you said it came over a lifetime, but you have Serena Williams and Kayne and all these very right-now things going on. This is not just staring at a beautiful pond and watching the ripples. It’s real dialogue with society and what’s going on today. Have you always written like that? Have you always wanted to engage in that type of timeliness in your writing?

Jasmine: Yeah, because so many things fall upon your heart. So many things, you sit with. It could be in pop culture, so you don’t know how the story belongs to you. I think so many of us who sit in the public eye, who have public narratives, we’re always like, do I have a right to give my opinion? There are many stories that happen in pop culture: Sandra Bland dying in prison and getting arrested, Whitney Houston’s drug addition, Serena Williams being policed even though she’s probably the best athlete in the world. My commonality is the Blackness around it, how the Black woman’s body is policed. There are things as a writer where I’m like, I’ve been thinking about this for some time now. All right, let me write. I won’t tell anybody what I said, but let me write something around it. Then you sit with it. You think about if your narrative is important and if it’s valuable. Some of these artists, I’ve had the honor of studying, studying their careers and studying their criticisms. Not only am I writing about these people, but I’m also a student of the thought.

Zibby: Here is a really stupid question. This is what I’ve always wondered about poetry. I am very comfortable writing essays. That’s my go-to form. I can write an essay, boom, boom, boom. I know when it starts and ends. I know when it’s percolating. I know when it’s ready to write. I know how to do that. Poetry, how do you even know when it’s poem? You talked about seven words, staring at it. Is it just because you set out to make it a poem? How do you know when a poem is a poem? How do you know when it’s done?

Jasmine: I don’t know. I think a poem is a poem because I’m a poet. Yes, there are themes — in my book, there is a piece that I wrote like an essay, or not so much like an essay, but like a story, like prose. There was nothing poetic about it. It was prose. I couldn’t sit here and pretend to answer that question. I could not pretend to answer that question.

Zibby: All right. Well, as long as both of us don’t know, then I feel better.

Jasmine: We don’t know. It’s okay.

Zibby: You said that you did what you set out to do, which is to become a writer. What got in the way?

Jasmine: Me wanting to become a writer got in the way of me wanting to become a writer. It was trying to be like everyone else. You can be a writer, but then it’s about finding your voice. I remember there was a specific time in my career where when I was a bit younger — I’m still young. I remember being embarrassed of talking about Black stuff. It reminded me of when I was young and when I did speech and debate. The Black debaters and performers would talk about thick, hard stuff. They would use the text of Toni Morrison and Langston Hughes, whereas the white debaters and performers would talk about flowers and things that were fun and funny. I realized that dynamic very, very early. I’m sorry, what was your question? I just got lost.

Zibby: I was just wondering if anything had gotten in your way on your way to becoming a writer.

Jasmine: It was understanding what kind of writer I wanted to be. Then it was not being embarrassed of the writer I wanted to be. I was often juxtaposed between looking at myself and my white counterparts and also being in spaces where even some of my colleagues and my peers didn’t think that the Black narrative was valuable. It was like, don’t talk about that. That’s cliché. It was this idea of participating in this uppity, colligate Blackness. I was removed from that world. I didn’t have to talk about those complications. There was this moment that happened, and it wasn’t long ago, that I realized that I was excited about my Blackness. I was excited about my understanding of home. I was only going to be able to write about my understanding of home if I valued it. You can’t write in a voice that you don’t value. That was the complication. I had to believe in it and value it in order to write about it.

Zibby: I love that. I feel like part of publishing requires the confidence to believe that somebody else wants to read what you have to say. I feel like there’s so many writers out there who do a lot of writing but can’t get it into the public eye because they don’t feel like what they have to say is worth it, and so it stays in drawers or it stays in laptops. Those are the voices I feel like we really need to hear.

Jasmine: It’s crazy when you realize that you are the biggest thing that is the hinderance. You stand in between all of your becoming. You think it’s everyone else and the people, but it’s actually our own minds and the way we think about ourselves and our experience.

Zibby: Wow, this is deep stuff. You’re an entrepreneur. You’re a poet. What are you going to do next?

Jasmine: Isn’t that crazy? I have no idea. I’m going to write more. My goal is to always write better. I want to create more. I just feel like this is the most beautiful point in my life where the things that I believe I can do are actually flourishing. I want to design more and take risk and create more poetry and investigate as a poet. I think that’s what makes something poetry, when you make decisions as a poet. I want to make more poetic decisions and be thoughtful about my work and then find joy and be good to people.

Zibby: I feel like “make poetic decisions” could go on one of those mugs. That’s a pretty cool line.

Jasmine: Thank you. I’ll give you ten percent for that.

Zibby: Thank you. You know what? I don’t need a percentage. Just send me a mug. That’s it. How about that?

Jasmine: We’re recording. I really have to do it now.

Zibby: On the record. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors and/or poets?

Jasmine: Continue. What makes us good artists is our ability to find our worthiness to keep going. Share. Share even the bad stuff. The bad stuff is worth listening to.

Zibby: That’s great. Of course, now we’re going to read all this terrible stuff. No, I’m kidding. Jasmine, thank you so much. Thanks for coming on. You’ll think of me, maybe, while you change out your hair. You’ll think of me with the same hair again day after day after day wishing I could something do else. I’ll think of you as I brush my hair. There you go.

Jasmine: We’ll think of each other. It was a pleasure.

Zibby: Me too. Have a great day.

Jasmine: Have a great day.

Zibby: Buh-bye.



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