Monday, April 13, 2015

Award winning poet and essayist Jane Satterfield will be reading on Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 7:30pm in the Lewis J. Ort Library located on the Frostburg State University campus. This reading is free and open to the public. Satterfield is a tenured professor of writing at Loyola College in Maryland. She also serves as Literary Editor for the Journal of Association for Research on Mothering. Her books of poetry include Shepherdess with an Automatic (2000), Assignation at Vanishing Point (2003), and Her Familiars (2013). Jane Satterfield was kind enough to answer my interview questions with original and interesting answers.
Who is your favorite poet? Why does this person inspire you?
Jane Satterfield: Sylvia Plath is an important poet for me, and I return to her work often as a source of energy and inspiration. I don’t see her just as the public figure defined by her last works and tragic suicide. Aside from the sheer power of her voice and vision, I was drawn to her by the deeper currents of social conscience in her lyrics (gender politics, concern for the environment). And I’ve learned so much from her in terms of musicality, syntactical control, pacing, and visual composition. 

What is your favorite poem that you’ve written? Why?
Jane Satterfield: It’s hard to pick favorites—I discover something new about craft with every new project. A favorite’s probably what I’m working on or have just finished—it’s a matter of enthusiasm for a technical challenge I’m puzzling out or relief in having just solved it! 
But “Elegy with Trench Art and Asanas,” a poem from a recently completed manuscript, is among my favorites because it begins in a yoga studio and moves through different scenes and historical eras. The poem gave me the chance to think through the ways we memorialize war and how much we struggle to conceptualize peace, however much we hope to do so. 
As a professor, what is the best method you use to improve your students writing? What do you feel is the most important thing that you can teach your students about writing?
Jane Satterfield: Writers are very different, and I don’t believe there’s a “magic bullet” that works for everyone. Aside from creating an encouraging community of writers in the classroom, I like to stress the value of tradition and innovation. Artists have always forged conversations across communities and historical eras, and I encourage my students to pull up a chair and join in. Whether they’re working on poetry or essays, I invite my students to practice different forms—from experimental essays to traditional poetic forms and genres—so they can explore both time-honored techniques and develop new ways of seeing. Not all experiments yield a perfect piece, of course, but the process of trying something new is fun. And it fosters the flexibility you need to evolve as a writer.
What is your most successful revision strategy?
Jane Satterfield: I share a lot of exercises with my students and a favorite is one I’ve often enjoyed myself—just taking out the scissors and scotch tape, following that old punk mantra: destroy to create. In this case, you do something that physically changes the look and feel of the draft you’re working on. 
Cutting out deadwood or severing links between lines to disrupt overtly logical connections can open up a poem in surprising ways—new themes emerge, syntax is tightened, there’s a bit of levity created through unexpected juxtapositions of diction or image. A new energy, if you will.
But most of the time, speaking poems out loud while composing is my key to revision. I collect images and phrases in a notebook long before finding a title and first line that sets the music of a given piece. Once that’s in place, I speak the poem out loud as I write, revising words and lines along the way as needed to make sure meaning and music are working in tandem. 
Do you have a preferred location you like to write your poems? In your home? At a coffee shop? Outside?
Jane Satterfield: When I became a parent, I learned to be more open to writing in different places. I have a nice desk in the upstairs study my husband and I share where my favorite books are within reach. I also write at a desk near our kitchen—a smaller workstation that was originally meant just for checking email. But it’s turned out to be a very nice spot—the sun floods the room all morning and I can jump up to make tea or I can haul my laptop into the kitchen while I’m cooking.
In the summer and early fall, I sometimes work under an umbrella out on the back deck. Coffee shops make a nice change of scene, especially if the music’s good and not too loud. 
Michael Schussler