Nightwood: From where did you write the majority of Crushed Wild Mint?
Jess Housty: I wrote the first drafts of most of the poems on a little aluminum boat, usually pulled into some little cove or drifting in an inlet somewhere. Many of the poems came to me while I was travelling in the territory and they tended to arrive, exposed to the elements, wherever in the homelands I happened to be.
NW: Did anything surprise you during the process of writing?
JH: Often, I have not prioritized writing or made enough space for it, focusing instead on my community work. I was surprised at how prolific I became when the formality of writing toward a manuscript gave me a sense of permission to centre poetry in my life!
NW: Is there a sense, memory or feeling that embodies your book?
JH: This is on the nose, but the obvious answer would be crushed wild mint. In general, many of the poems in my book unlock deeply sensory memories for me—damp meadows, bright mornings, earthy and herbal scents, the sounds of wild birds calling—that I hope shine through for readers too.
NW: What lives on your writing desk?
JH: If we’re talking about the dash of my boat where I do most of my writing, safety equipment and space to tuck a mug of tea! But at my actual desk where I do my revisions, pyramids of empty mugs and approximately one thousand Post-it notes.
NW: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
JH: Write without worrying whether you’re any good. Write for yourself, first and foremost, because it serves a purpose for you or makes you feel good. You can’t rush toward writing for others until you build a good relationship with yourself as a writer.
Thank you so much for joining us Jess! Make sure to check out Crushed Wild Mint here.
Crushed Wild Mint is a collection of poems embodying land love and ancestral wisdom, deeply rooted to the poet’s motherland and their experience as a parent, herbalist and careful observer of the patterns and power of their territory. Jess Housty grapples with the natural and the supernatural, transformation and the hard work of living that our bodies are doing—held by mountains, by oceans, by ancestors and by the grief and love that come with communing.
Through these poems we can explore living and loving as a practice, and placemaking as an essential part of exploring our humanity and relationality.
Jess Housty ('Cúagilákv) is a parent, writer and grassroots activist with Heiltsuk (Indigenous) and mixed settler ancestry. They serve their community as an herbalist and land-based educator alongside broader work in the non-profit and philanthropic sectors. They are inspired and guided by relationships with the homelands, their extended family and their non-human kin, and they are committed to raising their children in a similar framework of kinship and land love. They reside and thrive in their unceded ancestral territory in the community of Bella Bella, BC.