A Birthday Interview with Jake Skeets

Jake Skeets, Poetry Judge 2019

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish Jake, Nelson Mandela, and myself a Very Happy Birthday. Jake, thanks for being our Poetry Judge, and for doing our BMR Birthday Interview. We’ll do 9 questions, what with 1+8 being 9 and all. Let’s get started.

What is your favorite thing to do on your birthday, and do you get to do that this year?

Happy Birthday! Don’t forget Vin Diesel. We need to wish him a happy birthday as well. I really don’t have any traditions. In undergrad at UNM, I took advantage of free birthday meals. I would have breakfast at Denny’s on Central and then grab a free burger from Red Robin.

The best recent birthday I think was a few years ago when my parents bought me Little Caesers Pizza and a cake. I love Little Caesers. I think the last big birthday celebration was my 21st birthday, which was an absolute blast. I don’t think anything can top that.

I’m spending this birthday in Crownpoint, NM at the Emerging Diné Writers’ Institute. I’m teaching poetry to Diné students and it is quite the honor and a tremendous gift.

How many other people have you met that you share a birthday with? I think my count’s up to four now.

You are the only person I have met and remain in contact with so far. I remember meeting another person at a party once but I don’t remember their name. I feel Cancer season is when we all thrive. I have this sense of freedom for a few weeks around this time. Summer is my favorite season. The best time is when it’s close to 9 at night and you can still see the sun glow at the horizon.

I know we’re not all that old, but is there a slang or trend that makes you feel old?

It’s hard to believe that the huge things for us are now distant pasts. I bring up things like Myspace or 3OH3! to my younger sister and she is like “Wow, you are old.” I mean she knows what I am talking about but there’s a distance.  I would call my past self “almost emo” because I had the hair and I was obsessed with The Postal Service, Paramore, and Death Cab for Cutie.

There are a lot of titles we take on with work and school and everything else, but do you describe yourself/identify as a poet primarily?

I thought hard about this for a long time. In the beginning, I didn’t feel like a poet. Today, however, I know that I am a poet. It wouldn’t be fair to my years of revision and training to call myself anything else first.

I still do feel hesitation, especially being back on the reservation. I feel like the title of “poet” doesn’t have the same meaning as “engineer” or “lawyer.” However, I feel it important to say I am a poet and I am Diné so that perhaps another Diné out there can see themselves represented in poetry. My life changed when I read Luci Tapahonso in high school and we had the amazing opportunity to work with her in undergrad.

If/has a child asked you to describe what you do, how would/did you explain it to them?

I would tell them I’m a poet and that I write poetry. I mean children’s books and nursery rhymes are filled with rhyme, meter, and image so I feel like children would understand poetry.

I know June’s over, but that doesn’t mean Pride is. What’s on your Pride playlist?

I mean there are the classics like “Finally” by CeCe Penniston, “100% Pure Love” by Crystal Waters, and “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tiffany. Then, there are songs like “Scuse Me” by Lizzo, “Tempo” by Lizzo, “Cebuana” by Karencitta, and “Higher Love” by Kygo featuring Whitney Houston. It also includes the more emotional songs like “Slip Away” by Perfume Genius, “Shine” by Years and Years, “Holy Water” by Sakima, “Play by Play” by Autre Ne Veut, “Lay by Me” by Ruben, and “Warning Intruders” by Rostam. Of course, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Beyonce are all mixed in there as well.

How about favorite Fab 5 member?

Jonathan is my favorite. We were given the famous quote “Can you believe?” in the very first episode. Jonathan is the type of energy I wish I had in me.

Congratulations on the book! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy, and now that I think about it, I need to change the address on my pre-order. Aside from all of the craziness surrounding the release, do you have any personal goals (for self-care, growth, more houseplants, etc.) in the next year?

Thank you. Composing the book was a tremendous labor and I feel like the upcoming release and touring will be an even larger labor. I haven’t thought of any personal goals as I have been wrapped up with everything else but this is a good reminder, so thank you.

This is such a refreshing question. I definitely would like to devote more time to food. I feel like my relationship with food has been tremendously altered. In undergrad, it was extremely limited so I ate whatever I could find. Today, the stress of everything has me falling on comfort foods that are definitely not good for me. So I hope to relearn a healthier and more holistic relationship with food. Other things on the list: drink more water, get more tattoos, try to take more selfies.

Are you as obsessed with Megan Rapinoe as I am?

Such great hair and such great talent. You and my partner would get along just fine. He is obsessed with sports and I don’t mean just football or basketball. I am talking about soccer, lacrosse, gymnastics, professional bowling, college volleyball and so many other sports that only broadcast early in the morning. I am now semi-interested in college basketball but I fell in love with the WNBA. I feel like women’s sports are not given the light of day and that needs to change. We also need to pay them more.

Mitch Marty