Jessica (Tyner) Mehta, PhD is an Aniyunwiya, multi-award-winning inter-disciplinary author and artist. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, but born in the occupied [read: stolen] land of what is today often called Oregon, space, place, and ancestry are the driving factors in her work.
Jessica is a Fulbright Nehru Senior Scholar in Bengaluru where she is teaching poetry workshops at Christ University and curating an anthology of contemporary Indian poetry written in the colonizer’s tongue. Her current post-doctoral fellowship at Forecast Change Lab (virtual due to COVID) examines the language used in open calls for Native American public artists. This work is further supported by a Racialized and Indigenous Supports for Equity (RISE) research grant. As the outgoing poet-in-residence at Hugo House, and a practitioner of tarot in her personal daily rituals, she is working on a manuscript, “[sp]RED,” that Indigenizes and de-colonizes the tarot deck. [sp]RED is being illustrated by fellow Portlander Kendrick Payton and will be published by Red Planet Books. Jessica is looking forward to a 2023 residency at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley where her installation “Deep-Seeded” will debut. “Deep-Seeded” highlights the history of “Indian” boarding “schools” across Turtle Island and features heirloom Cherokee seeds.
Jessica integrates technology into many of her creative projects as a natural extension of her work as the founder of the SEO writing services company MehtaFor. One example of this tempering is “Red/Act,” a pop-up virtual reality poetry experience made with proprietary software and featuring family archival photos, an experimental form of poetry she created, and performance art. It aims to introduce a wider audience to poetry, and specifically Indigenous poetry, through a uniquely immersive encounter. Virtual galleries of her work transpired during COVID to allow for continued audience engagement. Her “emBODY poetry” performance series features experimental poetry on nude form while incorporating shibari rope work to address topics on body image and eating disorders in under-represented communities.
Her first children’s picture book, “One of Kokum’s Kids,” received a 2022 publication prize from Lee & Low Books and will be released in 2023. Her collection When We Talk of Stolen Sisters received three gold awards from the 2022 Human Relations India Awards while her collection Selected Poems: 2000-2020 (2020) was awarded the 2020 Birdy Publication Prize from Meadowlark books. Jessica’s poetry collection Savagery received gold from the 2020 Book Excellence Awards and Reader View Literary Awards. Her novel The Wrong Kind of Indian won gold at the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs) and at the American Book Fest Best Book. Jessica has also received numerous fellowships in recent years, including the Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship at the Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington and the Eccles Centre Visiting Fellowship at The British Library in London. Jessica is a popular speaker and panelist, featured at events such as the US State Department’s National Poetry Month event, “Poets as Cultural Emissaries: A Conversation with Women Writers,” as well as the “Women’s Transatlantic Prison Activism Since 1960” symposium at Oxford University.
She has undertaken poetry residencies around the globe including at Hosking Houses Trust with an appointment at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, Paris Lit Up in France, and at the Crazy Horse Memorial and museum in South Dakota. Her work has been featured at galleries and exhibitions around the world, including IA&A Hillyer in Washington DC, Asheville Art Museum, The Emergency Gallery in Sweden, and Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico.
Jessica is also an experienced registered yoga instructor (ERYT-500®), registered children’s yoga teacher (RCYT®), registered prenatal yoga teacher (RPYT®), certified Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider (YACEP®), certified in Reiki I and II, and a NASM-certified personal trainer (CPT). She’s the founder of Mehtananda, a movement that offers free classes to groups that don’t have access to traditional yoga studios and/or don’t feel comfortable in such environments while exploring yoga through a de-colonized approach.