Jean Janzen is a poet living in Fresno, California, who has taught at Fresno Pacific University and Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia. She is the author of six poetry collections, the most recent one entitled Piano in the Vineyard (Good Books), and a book of essays on writing entitled Elements of Faithful Writing (Pandora Press). Her work has been included in numerous anthologies and many journals, including Poetry, Gettysburg Review, Christian Century, and Image. Janzen received an NEA grant and other awards. She also has written hymn texts which have appeared in various hymnals, and some of her poems have been set to music, including an oratorio written by Alice Parker. She has an interview coming up in Stonework, an online magazine from Houghton College, where some of her poems have also appeared. Her poems also appeared in New Pantagruel. Along with two other poets, Jean interviewed poet Philip Levine at http://www.lineonline.org/4P.html.
LeAnne: What can we learn from poetry?
Jean: As with all the arts, poetry teaches us in ways which can transform us. We may learn, as in gaining information, but the ultimate gift of poetry is that we can be changed by it. Poetry with its intensity of language and its distillation of thought set in the beauty of musical language and cadence, awakens our bodily senses and our minds together. We are invited into large spaces, even as we are moved into better understanding of what is hidden and deep within us.
LM: Why do you write poetry?
JJ: Having grown up with hymns and the King James Version of the Bible, I was exposed to the power of language. Who can explain why a child responds with her own words? I wrote poems occasionally and studied English literature in college. My first attempt to study the craft came after my children were in school, when I gave myself permission to continue my education at graduate level. I had grown interested in telling my father's history in an artistic way, his journey as an orphaned teen from Ukraine to Canada. That moved into a poetic investigation of all of life. I write because I sometimes am able to make connections in unexpected ways, and I find places in my soul that continue to long for discovery of meaning and mystery.
More from Jean Janzen on Thursday.