Fellows Friday: Q&A with Jenn McCreary (extended remix)

Photo by Colin Lenton

Photo by Colin Lenton

From The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage:

As part of our new “Fellows Friday” web feature, we focus on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, creative challenges, and everyday lives.

& so I answered some questions.  & (as they pointed out) used a lot of ampersands, which I tend to do.  My fellow Fellow & long-time poetry confidante/co-conspirator/doppelgänger, Pattie McCarthy, once wrote: “laziness gave us ampersand & I am happier for it” [read the complete poem in her Duration Press e-book, alibi (that is : elsewhere) here].  & so say I, I agree.  I also cannot resist the shape of it.

You can read the Q&A (& count my ampersands) on Pew’s site here.

& here are a few answers (which were not include there), here:

When did you know you were going to be an artist?

When I was seventeen, I attended a summer arts program, the PA Governor’s School for the Arts, a competitive state-wide scholarship program for 200 or so precocious artsy teens [funding for which was unfortunately cut several years ago].  Six-week sleep-away camp for writers, musicians, visual artists, dancers. Imagine. Besides meeting, for the first time, an entire swarm of kids like me – a literal tribe, who would much rather spend their summer indoors working on their chosen art than playing outside in the nice, fresh air/sunshine, & then staying up all night talking about it – I met teachers [including Pew Fellow Whit McLaughlin, who was theatre director, & now runs the fantastic New Paradise Laboratories here in Philly] who treated me like I already was an artist.  Like that bit was a given, & that their job was to help refine my practice, & (just as importantly) to instill a commitment to arts advocacy.  & clearly, I drank the kool-aid: I grew up (ahem) to be a poet who co-edits a small press, & works a day job at a public art/art education/social justice nonprofit.

If you could live with only one piece of art, what would it be?

Sally Mann’s The Perfect Tomatoif the Guggenheim wouldn’t mind parting with it.
the perfect tomato

A piece of Jenny Holzer’s — a small bench or table.  That’s two.What music are you listening to? (and/or) Which books are on your bedside table?

I’m listening to the new Throwing Muses album, Purgatory/Paradise (which was mixed by my fellow Fellow & old friend, music genius Bhob Rainey)— Kristin Hersh has provided my personal soundtrack constant since high school.  &  also to more Leonard Cohen than I probably should be, but his is good music for long, dark winter days.  The books on my bedside table at the moment are Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folk Tale, & Clarice Lispector’s The Foreign Legion. The books always on my bedside table (or in its drawer) are Mary McCarthy’s The Group, Helene Cixous’s Coming to Writing, &  Carol J. Clover’s Men, Women, & Chainsaws — which are my insomnia reads, having read them forward & backward more times than I can count.  Make of that what you will.

Do you parents understand what you do? Are they supportive?

I’m not sure if “understand” is the word—we  don’t really discuss my poetry, other than it being something I do.  That is, they’re proud & pleased when I tell them about a new book, but we don’t  talk about the books themselves, or my projects.  They were quite happy about the Pew Fellowship, I think in part because it was something institutional, validating— perhaps because it seems grown up, rather than “Jenn’s still writing poems” [insert image of surly teen me, hiding in bedroom with stack of books & scribbling in journal, instead of playing outside in the nice fresh air & sunshine].  My dad (a behavioral psychologist by training) is always vaguely concerned my poems (which he claims not to understand) are about him.  In case he’s reading this, they’re not.    

& now my feet are maps … now available

&nowmyfeetaremaps.mccrearyI am over the moon /tickled pink / chuffed to bits/ on cloud nine / pleased as Punch (less the wife-beating/serial-killing parts) / etc / et al / to announce the publication of my new full-length poetry collection, & now my feet are maps, by the lovely Susana Gardner‘s Dusie Press. it is now available via the fine folks at Small Press Distribution.

Book design by creative genius Dan Shepelavy, with cover art by the tremendous SJ Hart (from her drawing, That night she fell asleep in a tangle of roots. She dreamt there were more girls nestled in the trees. Prints available for purchase here).

Lovely people have said lovely things about it, & I am truly grateful for their generosity & support.


“Jenn McCreary’s wry, disarming, dream-imbued reformulations of fairy-tale & folk-tale quests in & NOW MY FEET ARE MAPS make for an unconventionally pleasurable and challenging read. In point of fact, she turns the conventions of fantasy-inflected diction and dispiriting roles for female characters in on themselves, in large part through as subtle a handling of poetic sequencing and tone as I’ve encountered anywhere lately. These poems vividly remake the ground they take from a range of familiar sources, are addressed to readers of most ages, and do mean to change the way this world’s collective sense of imagination knows itself.”
Anselm Berrigan

“A celestial recalibration is in the Jenn McCreary line. I love being in there, and it’s for us, the biggest possible version of us. ‘here is my ghost voice / amplification helmet & here is the engine you built / with your blood—’ One day I took these poems to a rock by the water and encountered the protrusion of fortitude from every THING around me through the lens of her book. ‘& alterwise by owl-light: thistle-blood & born / with a backwards heart, I wasn’t always this / fragile.’ This book blows my mind, and this isn’t a blurb, it’s a witnessing. Planets come and go, but the vibratory poems like Jenn McCreary’s stay on in the breaking molecules gnawed by light.”
CAConrad

“Pieces of a life filtered through a fractured mind, somehow made whole by the work itself.”
Kristin Hersh

“& NOW MY FEET ARE MAPS is a journey poem. The feet are Jenn McCreary’s feet, my feet, the feet of anyone who has come through pain and confusion brought on by people or institutions who abuse their power. Jenn McCreary’s work is hacked from the ‘black box’ at her core. She figured out what it said, how to decode it, and recode it into poetry. The power of her images (unhinged in fairytale and play), her apocalyptic humor, her fusion of time, and her perfectly attuned guidance through devastation all serve to help us make sense ‘of another dark night / I’m learning to unwait.’”
Stacy Szymaszek

Support SPT’s 40th Anniversary Season

For 40 years, Small Press Traffic has been at the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area innovative writing scene, bringing together readers, writers, and independent presses through an influential reading series, publications, conferences and talks. Their mission is to promote and support local, national and international writers who push the limits of how we speak and think about the world. They aim to engage an audience for independently published literature while cultivating a culturally diverse avant-garde.

Visit their indiegogo page to view fantastic perks for contributing — including an outgoing voicemail message recorded by Kevin Killian, a personalized mix tape by Brandon Brown, & a Soma(tic) poetry ritual by CA Conrad!

ixnay press Reading for 215 Festival

eventtemplateHEADFounded in Philadelphia in 2001, The 215 Festival is a literary arts festival celebrating the written, spoken and visualized word. The 215 Festival showcases the vibrant community of literary talent in Philadelphia, and highlights the continued relevance of letters in a growing range of mediums, from books and poetry to music, film, and blogs. To help contextualize our local scene, the 215 Festival also seeks to present national and international talent. Past events include author readings, book-themed dance parties, literature-informed musical events, book fairs, literary film screenings, and blogger panel discussions.

Join me Saturday night as ixnay press presents poets Laura SpagnoliJamie Townsend, as part of the 215 Festival Lit Crawl.

Saturday 19 October
6pm – 7pm
B2 Cafe, Passyunk & Dickinson
Philadelphia, PA

 

1401690_10151775181284580_1581146727_oLaura Spagnoli is the author of the chapbook My Dazzledent Days (ixnay press). Her poems have appeared in various places, including Jupiter 88, ONandOnScreen, and Apiary, and her story “A Cut Above” was published in the collection Philadelphia Noir. She lives in Philadelphia.

Jamie Townsend is the managing editor of Aufgabe, and Elderly, an emergent hub of ebullience and disgust. He is author of STRAP/HALO (Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs; 2011), Matryoshka (LRL Textile Editions; 2011), and THE DOME (Ixnay Press; 2011), as well as a recently completed manuscript for SHADE, his first long-player. In 2012, he was a Millay Colony resident.

Poetry Foundation: Make a strong financial commitment to aid poets in need

On October 11, 2013, poet, educator, & activist Sandra Simonds wrote an open letter to the Poetry Foundation asking them to “Share the Wealth” among poets in need.

Currently, the Poetry Foundation makes several such contributions each year, but given their financial stability, we would like them to seriously consider significantly increasing this commitment to assist those poets facing healthcare issues, housing insecurity, & other serious economic hardship.

Please read Sandra’s letter — included below — and sign and share the petition at change.org to show your support.

The letter was originally posted on the Best American Poetry blog.

To the Poetry Foundation:

This is an open letter asking the Poetry Foundation to make a strong financial commitment to aid poets in our communities facing financial crises and a lack of adequate healthcare.

Many poets and I are concerned about the welfare of the many poets facing unprecedented economic challenges in this unstable economy. In the last year or two, a number of poets, old and young, established and emerging, have asked for financial assistance on social media and through email for healthcare costs, rent, and even utilities. It is heartbreaking when poets you have admired for years are forced to ask for help with basic necessities. The poetry community is strong. We help each other when our members are in need, and many poets have answered those calls for assistance. We are asking you to contribute to this effort.

Currently, the organizations in place to help poets in need are few, and their funding is insufficient. I have been in contact with Lyn Hejinian, a poet on the board of the non-profit organization “Poets in Need,” which helps aid poets who are struggling financially. However, this organization has roughly $80,000 total and can only make very small individual contributions to poets, usually less than $3,000. Every bit helps, and we’re grateful to this organization’s hard work, but you have the opportunity to make a major difference.

Last year the Poetry Foundation’s income was over seven million dollars and the foundation’s total assets are well above 150 million dollars. I was disappointed to learn that the Poetry Foundation gives only around $7,500 annually to poets in need. It seems appropriate that since Mrs. Lilly’s endowment came from pharmaceuticals, the foundation would commit some portion of its vast resources to underwrite the cost of health insurance for the poets she so admired.

Perhaps the Foundation would consider inaugurating a funding opportunity to enable established organizations such as Poets in Need to broaden and deepen the range of their assistance to poets. A substantial renewable Foundation grant to such organizations would show compassion and make a meaningful difference to those poets who might otherwise be without resources.

Like you, we believe poetry has the power to change lives and transform communities. Let’s not leave behind the poets who make that transformation possible.

Sincerely,

Sandra Simonds

(I could not have composed this letter without the generous help with research of Juliana Spahr, Jenn McCreary and Taylor Brady and thank you to Sean Singer for editing.)