Creative Writing alumni Jayme Ringleb's new collection of poems, 'So Tall It Ends In Heaven,' is 'a narrative of queer healing'
By Giana Nardelli
Florida State University English-Creative Writing alumni Jayme Ringleb returns to Tallahassee to read from their debut poetry collection, So Tall It Ends In Heaven.
A culmination of work that is the product of 10 years in the making, the publication is an anthology of poems and a series of connected stories about Ringleb’s life. Ringleb, who earned their doctoral degree from FSU in Spring 2020, describes it as “follow[ing] a speaker who is essentially trying to figure out what their relationship is to love, and all of its kind of iterations: romantic love, devotional love, familial love, and, in conclusion, self-love, which I think might be the big one for that speaker.”
The book takes inspirations from Ringleb’s various life experiences while growing up and discovering their identity. They explain that they took their own narrative and molded it into a fantastical yet still autobiographical, lens.
“[I am able to] say something that is emotionally true without having to feel totally exposed… which has been a really valuable and important part for me in terms of preserving my own health and relationship to an art form that I love,” they say.
Ringleb will read from their publication on Tuesday, Feb. 21, at The Bark in Tallahassee. The event is part of the Jerome Stern Distinguished Writers Series, hosted by FSU’s Creative Writing Program. The event begins at 8 p.m.
Ringleb began their journey at FSU in 2015 as a doctoral candidate in the Creative Writing Program. During their five years at FSU, Ringleb worked not only as an English graduate teaching assistant but also as a poetry editor for Southeast Review, a nationally recognized literary magazine run by English graduate students.
So Tall It Ends In Heaven is also a work that takes inspiration from life as a North Floridian, which Ringleb explained is a result of their time at FSU. An early draft of So Tall It Ends In Heaven became their doctoral dissertation.
“I was there for six years, and I worked on a substantial amount of the collection of poems when I was at FSU getting my Ph.D.,” they say. “It was great. I really enjoyed my time there. I appreciate that institution. I got to know the vast majority of the English faculty, all of them were very supportive and provided a great deal of direct feedback and ideas for a vision for the poems and, in numerous ways, of inspiration for it.”
Ringleb says they gained valuable knowledge and perspective from the wide variety of courses they took during their doctoral studies, specifically English Professor Robert Olen Butler’s creative writing workshop, which helped to shape the prose and critical work that can be found in So Tall It Ends In Heaven.
Ringleb also mentions that the literature and theoretical text courses offered in the English department inspired them.
“A lot of the ways that I have found that I tend to be inspired is through genres that aren’t poetry,” they say, “so, being able to participate [in] literature classes while at FSU took my poems in a lot of different directions that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.”
Ringleb published So Tall It Ends in Heaven under TinHouse Publishing, who they praise for their support and encouragement, with special shout-outs to the editing and marketing team. The Bark is one of the many stops Ringleb will make on tour for their debut book.
“I set up readings just by revisiting old contacts in places that I’ve lived in,” they say. “In some cases, that means seeing people for the first time in five, 10 years, and being able to share the moment of the book with these people who have shaped and influenced my life and I loved very dearly.”
Ringleb adds the tour brings them joy and is a privilege they feel grateful to have. An introvert by nature, Ringleb says that their book tour is both “exhausting and re-energizing… a good way of consuming energy.”
They explain that their tour is not a “tour” in the way that a band may tour for months without end; they are able to travel somewhere to promote their work and then return home. Due to that flexibility, Ringleb is able to juggle both promoting their poetry collection and teaching at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, where they are an assistant professor of English.
Ringleb is also still actively writing, and – as many authors do – navigating their own personal balance of writing and being a part of academia. They describe their writing process as continual and meticulous, carefully working on drafts of poems for months at a time before considering if they want to see that piece published.
Ringleb’s advice to new and fellow authors is to remember the importance of putting your work out there but at a comfortable pace. They recall something they learned when they were studying as a Master of Fine Arts student at the University of Oregon. Daniel Anderson, professor in UO’s creative writing program told Ringleb “to aim high and then just move down your [publishing house] tiers.”
“I would say if it's the case that you’re beginning or, in general, reserved about sending out, move in a way that is very paced and organized … by strategically sending out different packets to different publishers,” Ringleb says. “That’s my take on it, but others might be helpful as well.”
Ultimately, they add, “you’ll be able to find the advice that works best for you and be open to trying different ways of pursuing it.”
Ringleb hopes that readers see his works “as a narrative of queer healing.”
“I like the idea that that shouldn't mean that the speaker is, by the end of it, healed,” they continue. “And I would hope for people who read it, to make room for the idea of healing as a process, as a continuous task, and not one with an inevitable, final arrival.”
Ringleb will read excerpts from So Tall It Ends In Heaven for the Jerome Stern Distinguished Writers Series, at The Bark, Tuesday, Feb, 20. at 8 p.m.
For more information on their poetry, visit https://www.jaymeringleb.com
Giana Nardelli is an English major on the editing, writing, and media Track, with a second major in media/communication studies.
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