A Q&A with Poetry Instructor Jane Craven

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Today we asked Jane Craven, who will be teaching our NEW poetry class some questions about craft, reading recommendations, and more! Read on to find out what she had to say!

What are you currently reading?

Mary Szybist’s collection, Incarnadine. At its thematic core is the biblical annunciation, which Szybist treats in a sometimes serious, sometimes wry lyric narrative (e.g., her “Annunciation in Byrd and Bush” is peppered with dialogue between Senator Robert Byrd and George. W.). I also just finished a fascinating article in New York Magazine about the thirty-some tiny islands surrounding Manhattan, their past and present uses, as well as their current ecological states.  

What is your favorite time of day to write?

Mid-morning to early afternoon—the golden hours when I’m fully awake and have recently eaten! 

What is the best, or worst, piece of advice you’ve gotten about how to write poetry?

Sometimes we just need advice that will calm us down. I’ve found that many of our best writers don’t stress about writing every day. If you’re really into poetry, you start to think about it all the time and you’re always seeing the world through a poetic lens. Sometimes this is enough. When I stopped thinking I should write every day, I actually started to write more. Now it doesn’t bother me if a skip a day or a week or more.

What is a recent poem you’ve especially enjoyed?

There’s a quiet little poem by Diane Seuss titled “It Seems At Times That Silence,” that’s so touching and well-crafted I return to it again and again. The subject is how an apple not only embodies silence, but, paradoxically, how it also embodies layers of noise obscuring a final silence. Seuss is able to make all of this unfold in a circular (apple-like!) fashion that seems effortless. 

How do you know when a poem is finished?

Workshops can be very helpful with that. When I think a poem is finished, I get a feeling of completeness that should probably be questioned and tested. This is one of the most valuable benefits of a workshop—fresh eyes and constructive opinions!

What is a word you really admire/are drawn to/find especially evocative?

Recently, I’ve been exploring the word “incidental.” I’m working on a couple of poems that riff on its definition of “accompanying but not a major part of something,” and its secondary definition of “liable to happen as a consequence of.”

Thanks to Jane for sharing! Want even more poetry talk? You can sign up for the class here: https://www.redbudwriting.org/check-out/poetry