Smoking With Jamie Zerndt

Read the Story March 15, 2006
story art

From where did this story jump into your consciousness and land so skillfully onto the page?

I actually taught English in South Korea for a year and this park was somewhere I’d walk at night. They had a giant 30-meter bungee jump there and I’d watch people jump on the weekends. The story came from the first book I tried to write called “The Idiot’s Guide to Insecurity” about some of my experiences there. It was one of a few stories I culled from an otherwise worthless book.

What is the significance that this scene between Dave and Piper occurs in Korea? What’s the metaphoric importance of this setting—especially in terms of ideas of language and communication?

The story taking place in Korea serves to heighten the alienation Piper is feeling. Abortion alone is enough to do that, but add in a language barrier and the situation becomes pretty dire. I wanted to use the bungee jump as a metaphor for the back-and-forth feelings Piper was experiencing when considering having an abortion.

“They don’t look at you the same way, Dave.” How important is this line to the overall dynamic and understanding in the story?

It serves, I think, to underly the fact that what Dave’s going through isn’t anything near to what Piper is experiencing. Korean culture is also very conservative, which doesn’t help matters much.

How did the tattoo become part of this tale? What meaning lies hidden there?

I wanted to intimate that Piper had previously had an abortion, hence the tattoo of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The protector of children. I wanted it to highlight what a difficult decision was for her and also show that it wasn’t something she took lightly.

Your poetry has appeared in a number of places. Congrats! What led to your turning your attention to flash? What does one offer that the other doesn’t?—and how do poetry and flash complement each other?

Flash is challenging to me, in that you only have so much space to work with. It’s a like using form in poetry, versus free verse. As sonnets tend to frighten me, flash fiction is of course difficult. That said, I think having to write something within a certain structure challenges you as a writer and forces you to make every word count.

About the Author:

Jamie Zerndt's poetry has appeared in The Oregonian Newspaper, Mid-America Poetry Review and Nerve Cowboy. He lives and teaches in Portland, Oregon. He is currently refraining from adding any third-person wit.