By Cady Inabinett, Managing editor of content
“How can I continue to take and eat this image of myself, choke on the eloquence of my dissent, speak love fluently to someone with his knee on my neck, his bullet in my child?” poet Jacqueline Allen Trimble read from her poem “This Is Why People Burning Down Fast Food Joints and Whatnot” to a group of Montevallo students and faculty at a Poetry@UM series reading on Nov. 15.
Trimble, who lives in Montgomery, is an English professor at Alabama State University. She is a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellow, a Cave Canem Fellow and Alabama State Council on the Literary Arts Fellow. She has published two poetry collections.
During the Poetry@UM event, she was reading from her latest poetry collection “How to Survive the Apocalypse,” which was published in August.
Trimble began the reading by reading a portion of the introduction of “How to Survive the Apocalypse,” which focused on an heirloom Masonic Bible—passed from her parents to her before being donated to a university’s archive.
“I guess one’s discussion of the end of the world should always begin, somehow, with a Bible of some sort,” Trimble said before reading from the passage.
The introduction went on to discuss Trimble’s complicated feelings about her fear of the apocalypse story present in the Book of Revelations, with the passage saying that no story in the Bible could be as frightening as what she and fellow African Americans have already survived.
Following this, Trimble explained that “How to Survive the Apocalypse” is divided into two parts before reading the epigram for the first part: lyrics from Nina Simone’s song “Mississippi Goddam,” “Lord have mercy on this land of mine / We all gonna get it in due time.”
The first poem Trimble read was “What If the Supreme Court Were Really the Supremes?” Trimble said she wanted to start by reading this poem because of recent discussions about the Supreme Court and because it, “gives you an inside view of the way my mind works.”
As the title suggests, the poem imagined 1960s girl group The Supremes as Supreme Court justices—describing long, bedazzled robes, satin gloved hands, and big bouffant hair.
Trimble’s exploration of America’s political climate continued with the next poem she read from “The Laws of Insurrectionists.” She called the poem a “revenge poem”—a category of poems she writes about subjects that make her angry, allowing her to better examine them.
“For me, poetry is about making sense of the world. Putting it in a package that I can examine and think about and figure out what the heck does all this mean and what’s going on,” she said.
The poem responded to and critiqued the political and social culture of the right-wing, especially that which led to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Trimble introduced her next poem, “This Is Why People Burning Down Fast Food Joints and Whatnot,” by discussing her tendency to want to argue with people on social media. She said a coworker one time told her to stop arguing with people online, and instead write villanelles. This poem was written as a response to a post she saw during the protests following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 asking why protesters were burning down fast food restaurants.
She said this poem also intersects with her professional life as professor of American literature because of the poems historical references—the poem opened with an epigram from a catechism used to teach enslaved people Christian religion. The poem then acted as a joint response to the catechism and the social media post.
The next poem Trimble read, “Kneeling Is No Longer an Option,” is a single sentence poem. Trimble said this was reflective of the way she thinks of anger and rage.
“When I think of rage, I think of one breathless sentence,” she said.
After reading this, Trimble moved on to read from the second part of “How to Survive the Apocalypse,” reading a portion of her essay “The Fire Shut Up in Our Bones”—which reflected on her connection to her heritage—and poems “Counting Race”—a poem that focused on how society constructs and categorizes racial boundaries, “The Tour Guide Wonders If We Are Proud Our Ancestors Got to Build This Plantation, Demopolis, Alabama, 2019”—based on a experience Trimble and a friend had while visiting a historic plantation—and “How to Make Neck Bones and Rice”—which Trimble said pays homage to a couple that babysat her when she was a child.
Trimble also read a new poem, titled “I Hear America Singing the Blues.”
Before reading the poem Trimble told a story about her daughter being caught in the crossfire of a shoot-out while driving in Memphis. Trimble said her daughter’s experience caused her to make connections between her personal life and larger societal events.
“I know sometimes we call it confessional poetry, but really the personal is always connected to the communal which is always connected to the national, the historical, the world, right? And, so, for me, all of these thing are all one piece,” she said.
Following the reading, Trimble answered questions from attendees, including questions about her inspiration and her poetry writing process.
When asked why she enjoys doing poetry readings, Trimble said, “I always loved going to readings. Particularly for people I had read or if I had the book because I could then hear their voices.”
“You know, it’s kind of like it makes the poetry have a different level of sense,” she said.
Cady Inabinett is the editor in chief of The Alabamian. She’s majoring in English and double-minoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She enjoys reading, watching movies, caring for houseplants and generally just being pretentious in her free time.