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An Interview with Jessica Semaan

In between being your mother and father, I forgot to be your daughter And became the child of the moon.

I’m very fortunate as this is my second time speaking with Jessica Semaan, Lebanese poet and author of the newly released book of poetry Child of the Moon. Her debut collection has created quite a buzz around social media and rightly so.

Child of the Moon is set against the backdrop of the Lebanese Civil War amongst Semaan’s turbulent family life. Her poetry is a journey through shame, fear and crawling away from despair—of healing from childhood trauma.

Jessica Semaan’s words are raw and powerful—pieces of her soul that you will want to reread again and again. Read more below for the meaning behind the title of her poetry collection, what motivates her to speak truth, thoughts on anger in women, and poetry as a healing process.

 

Jessica Semaan at a poetry reading for Child of The Moon

 

Tell us about Child of the Moon. Why did you choose this title?

Ah. this is a bittersweet story. My ex wrote me a fiction piece called child of the moon, during the beginning of our relationship. The piece was an imaginary plot of me, as a teenager in Beirut. At the time, I was beginning to write poems about my childhood. And when I was meeting with my agent, and we were discussing titles, it all clicked.

What motivates you to speak the truth? To release such vulnerable pieces of yourself into the world?

I would say the silence surrounding my pain, and other’s pain and suffering, has given me no choice but to speak my truth. I have the privilege of healing, and doing something about this privilege is essential.

You speak a lot about shame and anger in this collection. These emotions are something I’m sure women everywhere feel, but haven’t always been encouraged to share this part of themselves. Was this in your mind when writing about your own anger and shame? Do you think society is afraid of women’s anger? If so, why?

Oh yes. Society is afraid of our anger, which the more we have to repress turns into rage. Anger is what drives change. Anger is speaking up. As we speak up collectively, things change. The more we express our anger the less we are at the mercy of patriarchy and colonialism. I experience shame often. But for a long time, I was not aware I did. Shame was masked with depression and anxiety. Now, I learned to identify it. And get myself out of it. So I can speak my truth. My truth that liberates me.

Your collection is divided into chapters, each named after a different phase or type of moon. What is the significance of the moons you chose?

Blood moon: blood represents injury. And unresolved trauma is wounds that are still bleeding. This section touches on my experiences with trauma.

Half moon: is about hiding from the pain. showing only half of myself. through defenses, depression, despair. On the outside pretending that all is fine.

New moon: new beginning. healing. beginning again.

Flower moon: blooming. Rising from the pain into creation, empowerment and being of service.

Was writing this poetry collection a healing process for you? What changes did you see within yourself after completing your book?

In a way, I feel on the other side. Writing Child of the Moon was a way to honor my childhood and the little girl in me, so I can move into my next phase. Not skip, but walk through it, after spending years feeling it all.

What or who inspires your work?

I am inspired by other artists. Nayyirah Waheed’s words are my biggest inspiration. I love to go to this curated open mic event called You Are Going To Die. Always amazing humans sharing about loss. I also enjoy classical Indian, Arabic music.

Why poetry? What does this form or genre mean to you?

Poetry is the language of the heart. It is visual. It is intuitive. The only way to express the inexpressible. Also my great grandfather was a poetry professor. Perhaps genetics too?

Can you share a favorite experience that has happened to you since sharing your poetry with the world?

Performing my poetry in front of 150 friends and family. Having my therapist in the room. And my ex boyfriend too haha It was a magical evening, where we danced and cried and laughed.

Child of the Moon is now available. You can also find Jessica on Medium, Instagram and Twitter