Hope Jordan’s poetry appeared in such journals as Green Mountains Review and The 2010 Poets’ Guide to New Hampshire. A trustee of the NH Writers’ Project, she attended Syracuse and Plymouth State Universities. She was NH’s first poetry slam master, and coached the inaugural NH Poetry Slam Team in 2007.
Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”
Hope: My husband and I had wandered into an exhibition of Pulitzer-winning photographs, and I had been surprised to see boxes of tissues in the gallery. By the time I had seen about 20 photos, I was using the tissues to wipe my tears. One photo disturbed me the most; it showed dead American soldiers being mauled by a mob in Africa. A year later I was in a poetry class that prompted us to write about a photograph. I decided to write about that photo, from the point of view of a woman in the mob because she was the most distant from me. I think writing and reading helps us understand identity in a very visceral way.
Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?
Hope: I think the narrator in my poem finds herself, but that really surprised me. This was one of the poems that really took me by surprise as I wrote it.
Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”
Hope: I guess maybe it’s the line “I have no home. I can never go home.” I think a person’s home is a critical piece of identity and if you don’t have that then your sense of self is harder to maintain.
Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here?
Hope: I have always written poetry, fiction and nonfiction. I worked as a journalist for more than 10 years. I’ve switched careers a few times and while I still write for work, none of it is what I’d call creative. I try to fit my writing in around the edges of life: work and exercise and family. Sometimes I’m better at that than others.
Amoskeag: Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?
Hope: My parents both read a lot of books, and wrote, and my dad was a high school English teacher. As an undergrad at the Magazine Journalism program at Syracuse, I began to find my voice, with the help of a professor named Bill Glavin, who passed away a few years ago. After college I worked as a journalist for more than 10 years. The discipline of writing for deadlines was invaluable. I had both my children fairly young and started writing poetry seriously after the birth of my second child. By then, we’d moved to NH and I took several courses and workshops with the New Hampshire Writers Project, and I now serve on the board of that organization. That was a key resource for me because I never could have been able to afford to go to grad school to work on my writing. Those classes kept me working on my craft. I joined a writers group, the Yogurt Poets, that gave me incredible support and feedback. In 2003 I attended the Colgate Writers Conference for the first time, and that took my work up a level or two. I’ve been back 7 times. Then I got a job at Plymouth State, and decided to take advantage of the free tuition benefit to earn a master’s degree. I decided on a degree in teaching writing, and I met a number of incredible faculty who are working writers and talented teachers. I also did some slam poetry when I was younger, and co-founded the scene that is now called Slam Free Or Die, at Milly’s Tavern. In 2007 I led the first team of slam poets from NH to the National Poetry Slam.
I lost my father when I was eight and one of my brothers when I was 21 and he was 19. I think those experiences have shaped me as a writer and that most of what I write is about loss, although until recently, I haven’t been interested in writing directly about those losses.
Amoskeag: What lies ahead for you?
Hope: I just started a great new job this summer. Once I’m over the learning curve for that, my biggest challenge is to schedule regular time to write. I am working on a novel set in Manchester that is a kind of retelling of the Jekyll and Hyde story, from the point of view of a college student. And I’m writing a series of poems about whaling. I also need to send out submissions. I’ve been pretty lax about that in the past several years. I’m also excited to be teaching a journalism class at Plymouth State this coming spring. Teaching always, always inspires my writing.
To view an excerpt of Hope’s poem “Woman Photographed by Paul Watson, Pulitzer Prize Winner, 1994,” click here.