June 21, 2014

Interview w/ Poet Jeanine Stevens

1. Who or what inspired you to write poetry?

So many factors go into one becoming a writer and poet. I think developing an ear for rhythm is important whether one writes in form or free verse. My parents were more singers than readers. Bedtime stories were songs. My grammar school was named after the Indiana state poet, so we had poetry at most school assemblies. The sign over the door of the library read, “There is no frigate like a book.” (Emily D.) I was impressed when a 6th grade cousin’s regular reading list included a book of poetry, The Poet’s Craft. It was blue and had a silver Pegasus on the cover. She eventually gave it to me. My aunt read Emerson and my grandfather read Hugo and Twain. I always liked to write and would help friends with term papers. As a teen, my first poetry purchase was a double set of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s lyrics and sonnets. In college, a favorite course was English Literature, the Romantic Period. Also, I remember a poem by Amy Lowell, “Patterns,” as noteworthy because of her effective use of repetitions.
2. Do you have favorite place to write?

I prefer to write out-of-doors when possible, the parkway, the woods, Lake Tahoe. Usually though, I prop myself up in bed for first drafts handwritten on legal pads. On occasion I write with a group that has been meeting for twenty years. There is a different kind of energy when you sit next to someone whose mind is whirring away. Recently I started writing with St. Mark’s Scribes. We do brief meditations which have a different effect on my writing. For revisions, I clear the dining room table for a week or two and establish “poetry central.”  I find I can also revise in fairly noisy coffee shops. 

3. Who are your favorite poets, alive or deceased?

Favorite poets have changed over time.  When I first started reading and writing poems it was Mary Oliver, Gary Snyder, John Haines, David Young.

Presently: Denise Levertov, Jane Hirshfield, Anne Carson, Marie Ponsot, Wislawa Szymborska.  William Wordsworth (always), John Keats (always), Charles Simic, George Oppen, Eugenio Montale and the French poets.
4. What five words best describes your personality.

Curious, serious, social, sometimes impatient, introvert/extrovert. (I score right in the middle on the Myers-Briggs.) 

5. Other than writing, what else do you love to do?

I enjoy walking, seeing things up close and have written many walking poems. I think of Rita Dove’s line of observation: “the pinched armor of a vanished cricket.” I also enjoy Romanian folk dance. Tai Chi is essential for me, both for exercise and concentration. We are currently using Chinese fans with our movements and have progressed on to the sword. Any time I can travel to the coast or the mountains is a good day for me. In the past few years I have traveled to Turkey, Alaska and Italy. Travel definitely opens up new ideas. 

6. What are your current, and/or next projects?

I just completed a small chapbook of poems with Asian themes, Needle in the Sea. I’m in the process of completing two full collections, one based on French themes and the work of Simone de Bouvier, and another based on ecstasy in everyday life.

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