Meet the Teaching Artist: Advanced Poetry with Janée J. Baugher
by Writing Workshops Staff
4 months ago
Janée J. Baugher, accomplished author and editor, is well-versed in the art and craft of poetry. Having written The Ekphrastic Writer and poetry collections Coördinates of Yes and The Body’s Physics, Janée's work is respected globally, featured in nearly 100 libraries. Moreover, her role as an assistant editor at Boulevard highlights her insight and dedication to the poetry community.
Janée is now leading a 10-week Advanced Poetry Workshop at WritingWorkshops.com. Perfect for poets looking to hone their skills, this class emphasizes practical techniques in revision, self-critique, and the publishing process. Designed for both seasoned poets and ambitious newcomers, participants will read and critique each other's work prior to each session, promoting a dynamic and engaging learning experience. Join us to refine your poetry with Janée's expert guidance.
Hi, Janée. Please introduce yourself to our audience.
I’m a Pacific Northwest writer of poems and nonfiction, and I hold degrees from Boston University and Eastern Washington University. I’m the author of two poetry collections and a book on craft, my writing has been published in over 150 journals, and my poems have been adapted for the stage and set to music at numerous venues.
What made you want to teach this specific class? Is it something you are focusing on in your own writing practice? Have you noticed a need to focus on this element of craft?
While poetry glee clubs are good and fine, I believe that poetry workshops are most productive when the discussion is relegated to elements of poetic craft. However, not all writers of poetry have the vocabulary to articulate their craft-related peer feedback. Inspired by a poetry workshop I took with Carolyn Forché, I created a lexicon especially for my workshop students. When students learn and begin practicing using these terms during workshop, they not only assist their peers most specifically and clearly, but they can begin seeing their own work more objectively.
Give us a breakdown of how the course is going to go. What can the students expect? What is your favorite part about this class you've dreamed up?
Richard Tillinghast wrote, “The willingness, the ardent desire even, to revise, separates the poet from the person who sees poetry as therapy or self-expression.” This online course is 10 weeks of intensive poetry workshop. You’ll be introduced to the hierarchy of revision feedback: primary, secondary, and tertiary concerns. Furthermore, you’ll learn the language necessary to be your own toughest critic. Completing weekly written feedback on your classmates’ poems will be expected (~90 minutes each week on this task alone). I look forward to helping you meet your publishing goals!
What was your first literary crush?
The Pacific Northwest poet, Alyssa Burrows, author of the 1992 collection of poems, Light Blue is a Sissy Color.
What are you currently reading?
The Ecopoetry Anthology, edited by Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura-Gray Street (Trinity University Press, 2013)
How do you choose what you're working on? When do you know it is the next thing you want to write all the way to THE END?
I advise my poetry students (for, it’s worked well for me) to have a lot of poems in various states of undress. Imagine a long room. Imagine pieces of paper lined up across the room. On the far right side is a poem that is nearly finished, for it requires just a spell-check and it’s ready to send off to a literary magazine. On the far left side is a blank sheet of paper, which represents all the possibility of your genius. The pages in the middle have a few words, a few lines, a few strophes, each page (as you gaze from left to right) has more words, with elements of craft worked out, with vividness settled, with succinctness accomplished, and so on. The benefit, therefore, of having poems in these various states affords the writer the luxury of attending to her own mood. When you start your day and feel particularly playful, the blank page is your task. Conversely, if you’re feeling the need for finality, completing the spell check is the page that gets your attention.
Where do you find inspiration?
Perhaps how do I find inspiration is a better setup: I find it when my eyes are open and sometimes when they’re closed.
What is the best piece of writing wisdom you've received that you can pass along to our readers? How did it impact your work? Why has this advice stuck with you?
When I first began writing creatively I was a bit flummoxed. For, you see, I’d been a science major and was working in the field of organ transplantation when I discovered a love for literature. Suffice it to say, accessing my creative abilities was painstaking. Thankfully, an early poetry teacher introduced me to the writings of Dr. Peter Elbow. His seminal essay, “Freewriting” (excerpted from one of his books, Writing Without Teachers) was exactly the instruction I needed to write from the place of not-knowing. I owe all my writing success to Peter, who has since become a dear friend.
What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?
Well, one of the most important craft essays that exists for poets, I believe, is Denise Levertov’s “On the Function of the Line.” She likens crafting poetic lines with composers’ musical scores. Furthermore, the essay is a reminder that mastering the line break is a lifelong endeavor. If you aim to write free-verse poetry with line breaks, you ought to both read this essay as well as study the Levertov’s own poems.
Learn More About Working with Janée:
You can learn more about Janée's upcoming class, a 10-week Advanced Poetry Workshop, and sign up now.
Instructor Janée J. Baugher, MFA is the author of the guidebook, The Ekphrastic Writer: Creating Art-Influenced Poetry, Fiction and Nonfiction, as well as two full-length poetry collections, Coördinates of Yes and The Body’s Physics. To date, her books are collected in nearly 100 libraries worldwide. A two-time Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Baugher’s poems have been adapted for the stage and set to music at University of Cincinnati–Conservatory of Music, Contemporary Dance Theatre in Ohio, Florida’s Dance Now! Ensemble, University of North Carolina-Pembroke, and other places. Since 2000, she’s taught Poetry at University of Phoenix, Seattle Public Library, Sitka Fine Arts Camp, Interlochen Center for the Arts, and University of Washington–Experimental College, to name a few. Currently, she lives in Seattle and is an assistant editor at Boulevard.