Author Spotlight: Amanda England

Amanda England lives in Maryland and has had work published most recently in The Orange Room Review, Amoskeag, The New Plains Review, and The Foundling Review, and was nominated for a 2011 Best of the Net award. When not writing, she serves on The Hedge Apple reading committee and moderates a peer critique group.

Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”

Amanda: “A Letter to My Father” explores how individual and shared memories shape 4.18 - Amanda Englandidentity. When memories that serve as a cornerstone for our personalities come into question, what does that leave us with? It’s a thought provoking question that I wanted to explore.

Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?

Amanda: Alice’s life is in transition. She’s moved away from her family for the first time and has to view the world alone. She is struggling with a past she cannot completely remember while trying to form new bonds with family. Even in our modern life, where family has much less power than it has in other times and places, the ties of blood are strong. Alice, by questioning her identity, is finding parts of herself in a family she isn’t very familiar with.

Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”

Amanda: I’m sure this is paraphrased from many other, greater writers–Dickens’ “tell it slant” comes to mind, but “Everything I write is truth, and all of it is fiction” strikes to the heart of identity. Who you are depends on what truths you chose to believe about yourself and what truths you choose to reveal to others.

Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here? Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?

Amanda: I’ve always been a writer, although it’s taken a lot of coaxing for me to realize it. I started by writing poetry, and though I rarely write it now, I feel that my beginnings in poetry lent a very lyrical style to my prose. For some characters, that’s an appropriate voice–for others, it takes a lot of work to get past. I think the biggest struggle I’ve faced in developing my identity as a writer is the audacity of it all. We read these life changing works of art and think, “I can do that!” One of the first poems I had published addressed this–the line “I build houses with the bones of dead poets” sums it up well.

Amoskeag: What lies ahead for you?

Amanda: For now, finishing my Bachelor’s degree in English and moving on to graduate work. Writing is my passion, but I’m still vacillating between getting my MFA so that I can write and teach English and writing, or pursuing another career path and writing on the side. I get excited by many things, so it’s hard to make a firm decision. Whatever I chose, I know I’ll be writing.

Author Spotlight: William Winfield Wright

William Winfield Wright is Fulbright scholar and Professor of English at Colorado Mesa University. He has published in The Beloit Poetry Journal, Field, The Ninth Letter, The Seattle Review, Third Coast, and elsewhere. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has two chapbooks available from Wormwood Chapbooks.

Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”

William: I am interested in persona, not in terms of hiding a real self behind the clothes of William Wrightmetaphor or situation but in terms of projecting a self into made-up and altered circumstances and language. I write science poems and surreal poems, and that allows me to see identity as play and to set out, or make grotesque, aspects of self. In the poem from this issue, the small size of the soul is featured as it meanders through physics, physiology, metaphysics, and biology like the bee in the title.

Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?

William: As a poet, I think less about types of characters and more about how to bring dialog into the poem, how to have two or more speakers working in and across lines. In many cases, the speakers get lost in the performance of self or in the play of language, but that’s also how they communicate with each other, how they find a connection. Identity is produced in the accumulation of lies, contradictions, and play. In a recent poem coming out in the journal A Few Lines next year called, “The New Physics,” two speakers play at saying ideas and names from the history of physics. Here are the last two stanzas to show what I mean:
8.
you did too
say Brahe
Tycho Brahe all out loud
and no I did not say Fermi

9.
Kepler
what?
nothing

Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”
William: I like this one:
“Perhaps it is enough to be regularly nearby
like with horses and fish.”

That’s two lines, but they say something about the communal aspects of identity, that like those two horses that stand next to each other in a field, or the sardines in the local aquarium who swim in crowded circles with their mouths open, we are who we are in part out of our connection to others who are sometimes like us only in being in a similar kingdom, class, or species.

Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here? Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?

William: As a writer of scholarship, I got here by being my colleagues’ peer. García Márquez has said something to the effect that he writes so that his friends will love him better. I write so that my colleagues will continue to include me in their conversations about literature and about teaching. I am a poet in part because I spent nine months in Norway some 11 years ago. It was beautiful and lonely, and I spent part of each day around a language near but not my own. That and the supportive and attentive friends and colleagues I had there made for a fine recipe for poetry, and I can hope that they love me better for the results.

Amoskeag: What lies ahead for you?

William: There is some reinvention ahead for most of us, I would guess. In practical terms, I have another chapbook coming out and continue to get nibbles and bites on small and large manuscripts. The idea that I am building an identity, if only for myself, in the poems I have published is fun to contemplate. I recently had a fire and am gifted with the dubious and exciting chance to reinvent my home and what it means to live in a willfully constructed space. More in the “who knows?” category, I expect to live, or visit at length, other parts of the world either in memory or action. Publishing in the Amoskeag journal had me contemplating my time in southern New Hampshire in the 1980s. I can anticipate that my job will allow me to spend time in other countries. The world is full of interesting places to land, however briefly.

To view an excerpt from William’s poem “My Soul, the Size of a Bee,” click here.

Author Spotlight: Jonathan Blake

When I submitted my poems to you, I had no idea of the theme of Identity.  That being said, I might posit that each and every poem I write has to do with my coming to know my own identity through the world I am privileged to live in, to attend to. I more often than not Jonathan Blakedo not set out to write a specific poem but to discover what will prevail on any given morning when I sit to write. I pray the world will enter me in some way while reading other poets or paying attention to what is going on at the moment and that suddenly the “weak and diffident pulse of language,” as William Stafford speaks about in his brief essay “A Way of Writing,” will bless me with an avenue into a new poem or a draft of a poem. I love the discovery and the mysterious surprise, and believe in the lineage of my work there is some clue to who I am and what I love and wrestle with as a writer: What I believe is important to convey: What gods stand up inside me at that moment and sing, if you will. I know myself better in the years after as I read what I have written and see the patterns of concern and attention. Let’s say the act is a way do discovering who I am.

The speakers of my poems are often in an act of that discovery; in the act of revelation, as I am in the creative moment. Then, as Donald Hall and others suggest, I come to know what the poem tells me.

In the poem published in your Identity issue, it is hard to pick out one sole line that speaks to your definitive question of what sums up identity. For me it would be, “I have come close/to the water with pen and paper/seeking a stillness / I can translate,” as in Vermont when I have summer time to write I am often at the end of a dock on a small quiet pond in the Northeast Kingdom overlooking a valley and waiting for the pulse of language to move me toward a poem. For the noisy children who had no understanding of my need, it may be, “But there is no defeat / in them now: no tenderness.” I am reluctant to reduce it all to that, but it is what my gut tells me at this moment, the northeastern storm winds howling outside, a good peasant red Spanish wine close by, and the fatigue of having recently written a narrative for my online American Literature II class that engages poets from Lowell to Bishop, Brooks to Roethke, and Ginsberg to O’Hara.

The best I can do in a short way to describe how I have gotten here is telling you that at the dinner table after the meal was done my father read Kipling aloud…”Riki Tikki Tavi” and “Gunga Din,”  his favorites, as well as excerpts from “Henry the IV and V” and Romantic poets that might have had his fancy at the time. And that our household was always one of words and books and the importance of such, whether it was my mother reading to us at bed time or our sharing even now the books we love and talking about them; or my nieces answering the mundane question about where their uncle might be matter-of-factly answering, “you know, he’s on the dock writing,” as if it is a normal practice in any household.

What I have gone through is an engaged curious attention to the world around me: and I am blessed for it. Give thanks every day for that privilege.

What lies ahead? More poems, I trust. And of late, I have been possessed by the presence of an old  fictitious bluesman from Mississippi by the name of James Tobias Lock from the late 1940’s and find myself in the middle of a play that is also an act of discovery. I have begun the second act recently of a first draft that finds me walking around hearing his voice as well as his true love Jasmine Rose and humming much music in 4/4 time.

To view an excerpt from Jonathan’s poem “Those Lords of the Flies,” click here.

Author Spotlight: William Jensen

William Jensen grew up in California and Arizona.  He now lives in Texas, and his work has been published in various journals.  In 2011, he was nominated for a Pushcart.  Mr. Jensen is currently working on a novel.

Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”

William: I think all my work has to deal with character, specifically those moments that forge a character’s identity in stone, not just epiphany but the real buckshot flash of awe William Jensenand devastation, the episodes that stick on a person’s skin like a tattoo.  I think the best stories are those that might as well begin with “This is what changed everything.”  At least those are the ones I like to read.

Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?

William: People prove who they are in the crucial moments, that’s when they get naked.  I think the men and women who find themselves in my fiction are tough good people who are trying to hold onto the one last pure and decent thing in their lives.  They’re fighters.  But they’re sensitive at the core.  You can learn a lot about yourself in those times of crisis.  But you may not like what you learn.

Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”

William: I’m not really sure how to answer that one. I guess it depends on whose identity we’re talking about. There is one crucial scene in “Kingdom of Heaven” where the reader sees who Jesse Copland really is but I like to think that first line, “My stepfather died in prison,” says a good deal about both the narrator and his stepfather. Readers will have their own thoughts on how “identity” plays out in the story.

Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here? Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?

William: Man, you are bringing out all the big guns out, aren’t you.  Well, I always, always, always wanted to be a writer.  I was always writing stories as a kid, and I read just about every book I could get my mitts on.  Most writers tend to go through a certain baptism by fire and I’m no different.  I imitated this guy one week, some other guy the next.  I lost several years of my life trying to live like one writer who will remained unnamed.  I moved around a lot, I worked a lot of crap, manual labor jobs.  The general ass-kicking you get when you’re young and hungry.  I got my first rejection letter when I was about seventeen, and I got my first two acceptance letters back to back when I was twenty-nine.  It was a tough time.  But hey, if it was easy then everyone would be doing it.

Amoskeag: What lies ahead for you?

William: All I can think of now is that old saying that if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans. I’m working on a novel. I’ve written several novels before and they were all pretty bad, but I think this book is going to be something special. I’m really excited about it, and I hope to find an agent in the near future. For right now?  I’m just trying to write, put food on the table, and stay out of trouble. Too much trouble out there already.

To view an excerpt of William’s short story “Kingdom of Heaven,” click here.

Author Spotlight: William Cass

Bill Cass has had a little over forty short stories accepted for publication in mostly smaller literary magazines and anthologies.  He lives and works as an elementary school principal in San Diego, California.

Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”

William: My intention was that the story in this issue would deal with identity in a couple of different ways.  The main character/narrator is struggling with his own identity in William Cassconnection with the sudden absence of his wife with whom he’s always felt it was intertwined.  And I’d hoped that his random interaction with the woman on the bridge would suggest something about the larger human identity that he eventually realizes the two of them shared, and that perhaps we all share, both in terms of flaws and capacity for generousness of spirit.

Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?

William: I suppose both the narrator, as well as his wife and the woman on the bridge, “lost” themselves to some extent in their own experiences with the vagaries of love.  The narrative, by design, leaves the extent to which the wife later finds herself as uncertain.  I’m not sure that the narrator and the woman on the bridge actually “find themselves’ in the end either, but I hope the story suggests that they found something in one another – and in the brief, unsolicited gestures of support they offered each other at critical junctures – that allowed a belief in their own worth and humanity to be sustained.

Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”

William: The sentence that occurs to me in this regard may be more about loss of identiy than the meaning of identity.  It’s in the middle of the story when the narrator is realizing that his wife has left: “My last stop was her studio, which I found exactly as I had the day before except for her sweatshirt, which was gone.”

Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here? Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?

William: As corny as it probably sounds, I identify myself as a writer as one who uses the shaping of stories as a way to try to make sense of the world, especially those things that trouble or touch me about it.  I’m not sure how I got here or who/what made me so, but I did have a very encouraging high school English teacher who first nurtured in me a shaky idea within that I might be able to write, and a grandmother who I probably admired more than anyone else who was something of a writer herself.  In terms of things from my past that may help define my writing, there are many of those…in respect to this particular story, I did go through a personal experience that approximates the narrator’s, so that certainly informed this piece of writing.

Amoskeag: What lies ahead for you?

William: I hope to keep growing as a writer, and in so doing, continue to try to say something about the human condition as honestly and truly as I can.

To view an excerpt from Bill’s short story “What Goes Around,” click here.

Author Spotlight: Jeanne Wagner

Jeanne Wagner is the recipient of several national awards. Her poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cincinnati Review, the PBS Poem of the Week website and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. She has published five collections of poetry including In the Body of Our Lives, released by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2011.

Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”

Jeanne: “Losing Her” deals with the identity loss that comes with grief.  In this case, an Jeanne Wagneridentification so strong it’s a physical identity that extends even to gender. The subject becomes a doppelganger seeking its other – becoming that other.

Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?

Jeanne: I’m not sure the character I’m writing about finds himself, but he finds the world made up of diverged halves seeking each other.

Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”

Jeanne: “He hears the harmonics of hardness and hollow.”

Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here? Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?

Jeanne: By profession, I’m a tax accountant. But I think I’ve always been a writer, if only a writer in my head. I’m what you might call “home-schooled.”  I’ve learned mostly through reading others and through trial and error. A lot of error!

Amoskeag: What lies ahead for you?

Jeanne: More writing. Improvement, I hope.  I’d like to do more writing in other genres.

To view an excerpt from Jeanne’s poem “Losing Her,” click here.

Author Spotlight: Daniel Williams

Daniel Williams resides in the Yosemite region of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northern California. He has an M.A. in English Literature from San Jose State University, and has taught at Foothill College, Columbia College and Metro State in Denver.

Daniel Williams

Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”

Dan: Sometimes the mytho-poetic archetype allows us to find corresponding emotions in our all too human breasts and therefore gives some keys to our own identity.  Like watching an Elizabethan tragedy and identifying with Hamlet.  Sometimes our own ghosts force us to take reluctant action.

Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?

Dan:  Pluto the lord of darkness is attempting to enlighten his young lover regarding their situation.  By telling her you’ve no future here and letting her go he’s committing a transcendent act of love.  Her reluctance to leave, she learns, is hurting herself and the world at large. The wisdom of age confronts the passion of youth.

Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”

Dan: I am hell /and hell is a nice place to visit/ but when you want to leave you want to leave.

Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here? Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?

Dan:  In my youth and after a reading of Graves’ White Goddess I decided to dedicate my writing to the earth and its rhythms.  I live in forest, meadow, river, sky, and every living creature and they in me. It’s my
purpose to give them voice.
Amoskeag: What lies ahead for you?

Dan:  Each day brings its opportunities for poetry.  I wait upon them.

To view an excerpt of Dan’s poem “Pluto to Persephone,” click here.

Author Spotlight: Hope Jordan

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 Hope Jordanwas 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.

Author Spotlight: Andy Plattner

Andy Plattner has published two story collections and has a forthcoming title, Offerings from a Rust Belt Jockey, which recently won Dzanc Book’s inaugural Mid-Career Novel Prize. The novel is scheduled for release in October 2013. He also has a forthcoming stories in Folio, apt and Sewanee Review.

Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”

Andy PlattnerAndy: Henry, the central figure in the story, is comfortable with where he lives and he is equally comfortable with not asking himself difficult questions. His older brother, Christopher, sees this attitude as a pronounced and unhealthy family trait, and this, in part, is why he’d rather go off to war than stay in their small West Virginia town. He does not want to turn out like his parents and he warns Henry against this as well.

Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?

Andy: Christopher does not find himself out in the world, but he never regrets having left home. Henry simply discovers that his choices have resulted in dramatic limitations on both his outlook and his self-worth.

Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”

Andy: Probably the last sentence: “He was going to live the rest of his life in this house and he told himself not to worry about anything anymore.”

Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here? Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?

Andy: In my fiction writing, I am interested in whatever truth I can uncover about the world. So, I guess you can say I very much identify with this. If the truth is ugly, so be it. I’d rather know than simply pretend.  (I suppose Christopher from “Adored” is something of a self-portrait in this way.) I think many writers—especially the ones I admire–more or less wind up just wanting this. So, I don’t think I’m breaking ground at all here. Without getting into all the minutiae surrounding it, I suppose that I have gone through a meaningful maturation process as a writer. I feel like I am in a meaningful place in my work right now.

Amoskeag: What lies ahead for you?

Andy: More stories, a novel manuscript. I just finished a story called “Hot Springs” that I think is OK.

To view an excerpt from Andy’s short story “Adored,” click here.

Author Spotlight: Joanne M. Clarkson

Joanne M. Clarkson is the author of two collections of poems: Pacing the Moon (Chantry Press) and Crossing Without Daughters (March Street Press). Her work has appeared recently in Paterson Literary Review, Valparaiso Review,Caesura and Hospital Drive. She holds a Master’s Degree in English and has taught, but currently works as a Registered Nurse specializing in Hospice and Community Nursing. Joanne lives in Olympia, Washington, with her husband, James.

Amoskeag: The 2012 issue has come to be known as the “Identity” issue; in what way does your work deal with “identity?”

Joanne ClarksonJoanne: I had been thinking about this poem for several years.  A friend of mine is a graphologist and does handwriting analysis for law enforcement as well as for private clients.  I had never seen her in action until she read my husband’s writing (he was a police officer).   What she said about him was astoundingly accurate.  She has each client copy a standard paragraph that is written in first person, thus containing several capital I’s.  She explained that this personal pronoun is the most telling letter of all.  Since that afternoon I had wanted to do a poem about her talent.  When I saw the notice about your theme, I unearthed drafts of this poem and got to work, because graphology is all about discovering a defining identity.

Amoskeag: In developing your main and supporting characters, how do you see them losing or finding themselves?

Joanne: In this poem, she studies the suspect in a criminal case.  We don’t know what he is accused of. (They rarely tell her that).  But like many people who commit crimes, we learn in this short piece that he has been marginalized, forced to conform, erased in his youth.  And when the motherly woman appears to take an interest in him, he confesses everything.  He wants so much to be understood, to have someone pay attention to him, that he doesn’t care if this contributes to his conviction.  Everyone wants to have their “I” acknowledged.

The poem also reveals the character of the graphologist: she can see from his penmanship where he came from, where he is, where he is headed.  Her nature is compassionate, not malicious.  She helps him reclaim his identity.

I gave this poem to my friend and also read it during a workshop I presented in her home town.  She liked it very much and agreed that it summed up what she tries to do – to ‘identify’ someone.

Amoskeag: What is the one line, the one sentence in your piece that for you sums up the meaning of “identity?”

Joanne: “Signature of soul” or “risking everything/to be legible again.”

Amoskeag: How do you identify yourself as a writer — how did you get here? Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?

Joanne: Who/what made you so? Where have you come from? What have you gone through?

Another reason why I decided to write for and submit poems on this theme is because I believe that, at its core, writing poetry is a means to discovering one’s own identity.

I have written poems and stories since I was a small child.  My mother was a teacher and we read constantly.  My childhood was marked by illness and death: my sister died as an infant, my father passed when I was 10, my beloved grandfather was in a terrible automobile accident and was hospitalized for months and then institutionalized.  After I graduated from high school, I went to college on a nursing scholarship.  But once I got to the hospital floor, I completely fell apart.  I ended up graduating in English and went on for my master’s degree.  Through twists and turns of fate, I ended up spending most of my professional career as a librarian.  I also faithfully wrote and published poetry including two books.  I taught a lot of workshops on writing and presented library programs to help patrons understand and enjoy poetry.  In the late 90’s I cared for my mother through a long and debilitating illness.  After her death, I decided to return to nursing with the goal of working in Hospice.  Through my nursing studies and my years in Hospice I wrote less than I ever have in my life.  The experience was so intense that it took all of my emotional energy and creativity.  But over the past 4 years I have been writing more intensely than ever before.  My patients and their families are a continual source of inspiration whether I write l about them directly or not.

Almost all my poems are about people—individuals or the human condition.  I am amazing by the impact of suffering every day.  And by joy.

I have a second poem in the Identity Issue as well.  It is a poem about my father and how his love of all things alive contrasted sharply with his profession.  He grew up in extreme poverty, one of 10 children of a coal miner.  He got drafted into WWII and, in the war, learned to be a butcher.  He married my mother during that time after meeting her one night at a dance.  When he got out of the Service, he got a job at Serve-U meats in downtown Seattle.  All the facts about him in the poem are basically true.  As a child, I didn’t realize what a sacrifice he made working at a profession contrary to his nature.  Fortunately, 6 years before his death from cancer at age 44, he quit his job and began building houses, something he loved.   I guess this poem is a tribute to all people who work at a job to feed their families that is not really the best fit for their soul.  I always remember my father, though, as happy and very gentle.

To view an excerpt of Joanne’s poem “My Father, The Butcher,” click here.