Jessica Drake-Thomas On Three Influential Books

Today we asked Featured Artist Jessica Drake-Thomas to talk about three books that have been influential in her work. Over to you, Jessica!

Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

Please Bury Me In This by Alison Benis White
This book is a meditation on loss, suicide, and mental illness. The imagery and language used by Alison Benis White is really unique and visceral. I’ve never read anything like it. It really got me to focus on my images, and to pare down my wording. Prior to reading this, a professor pointed out that my biggest writing flaw was wordiness. In addition to being a poet, I’m also a fiction writer. It’s my first instinct to be wordy, but ever since reading Please Bury Me In This, I’ve really starting distilling my poems into shorter form. I’m trying to use only what’s necessary, and only use what is essential. I’m trying to focus my writing on what isn’t said, as much as what is.

The Good Spells Book by Gillian Kemp
I started reading spell books to feed my interest in the occult. On the way, it had an incredible impact on my recent poems. I started writing pieces that had the cadence of incantation. Spells and poems are so similar—there’s an intersection of magic and poetry that I’m finding interesting to delve into. Of all the spell books that I’ve read, this one is really beautiful. The only downside is that a lot of the spells involve onions.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
You know when you’re reading something, and a part of you suddenly falls into place? I read this book, and it settled into my bones. The trick to writing horror is about setting a trap for your character that they can’t refuse—Nell is searching for somewhere that she belongs, somewhere to call home, and she finds that in Hill House—a grotesquely gothic mansion that play tricks with the mind. It’s a trap that I myself would likely fall into as well, because I never really quite feel at home or comfortable anywhere. I’ve shuffled about the country my entire adult life, looking for a place where I belong, but have never found it. Anyway, I’m writing a lot about houses and their ghosts these days.