emBODY poetry

by Jessica C. Mehta


As an Aniyunwiya (citizen of the Cherokee Nation) artist, poet, and scholar, I consider it my responsibility to use my platforms and work as a means for amplifying Native voices and realities. I create experiences for sparking discourse and highlighting the authenticities and histories prevalent to both NDN country and everyone across Turtle Island. I prioritize collaboration whenever I can, such as exclusively working with fellow Natives for book cover art or as models for my performance work. Such group work also extends to my family, with my daughters helping to create a poetics-based series, “Strong FoundNations,” recently on exhibit at the Maddox Building on the occupied [read: stolen] land typically referred to today as “Portland, Oregon.”

I began my career as a poet decades ago, and to this date most of my books are poetry collections. Although poetry is my most natural form of communication, not everyone reads poetry books or attends so-called “traditional” readings. I began incorporating other mediums into my practice, such as 2-D work, installations, performance, and interactive technology (VR), because I also believe it is my responsibility to engage with audiences on myriad levels.

I have shared with you just a couple examples of my work and process as an NDN, as an artist, and as a writer. My goal is to inform. To create conversations. And, in many cases, to educate. Art demands quiet. Listening. It's why we are naturally shushing ourselves and each other in cinemas and museums. Through art we have a window to connect, and it is in those slices of time that I have found my work—and, more importantly, my purpose—most powerful.

Jessica Mehta, PhD is a multi-award winning Aniyunwiya inter/multi/anti-disciplinary poet, artist, and scholar. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, space, place, and de-colonization are the driving forces behind her work, which includes several books and exhibitions. Her doctoral work addressed the meeting point of eating disorders and female poetics. During her post as a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Bengaluru, India, she curated a poetry anthology in the colonizer’s tongue. She currently has an installation showing at Kala Art Institute (Berkeley, CA) and a forthcoming show at Walters Cultural Center (Hillsboro, OR). Dr. Mehta is one of two inaugural artists in residence at the Martin House (Buffalo, NY), a 2023/24 Peace Studio Fellow, and the Bayard Rustin Penington Friends house 2023/24 artist in residence (New York, NY). Visit www.thischerokeerose.com.

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