TRP Q&A: An Interview with James Jabar

Mackenzie Campbell interviews Texas Review Press author James Jabar

James Jabar is a student and lecturer from Greensboro, NC. He has an MFA in poetry from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and his poems have recently appeared in The Freshwater Review. When he is not writing poetry or mentoring students, he spends his time in front of the camera reviewing albums, movies, and books on YouTube.

Do you watch television? What is the last thing you binge watched?
The last show I binged watched was probably the second season of Sex Education on Netflix. I really like British Television. 

Did you like to read as a child? Were there any childhood books and authors that were your favorites?
I loved to read as a kid and back then I was much more into fantasy adventure books. J.K Rowling and Rick Riordan pretty much shaped my childhood. 

What are some of your ‘comfort food’ books, the books you keep coming back to when you need encouragement or escape?
I don’t usually read fiction more than once but in terms of poetry I always find myself going back to look at A. Van Jordan’s Macnolia, because there are just so many gems in there about life, love, family, and race throughout the book. 

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?
I think every book should do both the emotional and intellectual work. A book that is simply intellectual seems like it would just be a lecture and a book that is nothing more than emotion teeters on melodrama, which might work for some just not for me.

If you could have a conversation with any writer living or dead, who would it be and what would you ask them?
If I could have a conversation with any writer it would be George Schuyler and I would ask him about why he liked Nixon because it just never made much sense to me considering his political beliefs and the fact that he found all politicians to be repulsive.

Where is your favorite place to read? To write?
It’s not so much the place for me, as long as there is quiet I can pretty much fall into a book or go on a writing binge anywhere.

What’s your favorite obscure book?
The most obscure book I ever read was probably Cane by Jean Toomer, and I still have absolutely no idea what it’s about or trying to say but it’s a remarkable experience to sit down and actually read it.

What books should be added to the literary canon? Is there still value in reading the old, dead, white guys?
I’m not completely sure on the idea of even having a literary canon or a group of books that everyone should read, like who decided that and who should decide which books go in and which books don’t? And, the old dead white guys are fine to read if you want. The problem I think people have with them is that they’re put up on this pedestal as if no one else, especially people who don’t look like them, ever wrote anything as good. It plays into a very nasty white superiority complex which makes people, in turn, resent them.

Are there any classic books you feel like you should read but just can’t?
Moby Dick is a classic book that I feel like I should have read because it’s referenced so much but I could never force myself to go buy it let alone read it. But, maybe if it was given as a gift I might feel inclined to crack it open.

What do you want to be remembered for?
I think the idea of being remembered is sometimes over-romanticized and most people almost always tend to misremember the legacy of others, either making them out to be a saint or the devil. I try to focus more on making my ancestors proud, because pleasing the living seems like an impossible task.


Mackenzie Campbell grew up in Kansas and north Texas. He is an MA candidate at Sam Houston State University. His research interests include 20th century American literature, women’s literature, and queer literature. He is currently the marketing assistant and publicist at Texas Review Press.

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