The Joanne Van Wie Interview

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The inaugural issue of TEXTure Magazine’s featured poet is from down south o’ here; with fellow Southern Maryland poets-in-arms, Joanne Van Wie relatively recently joined the Annapolis poetry scene. She has been writing poetry her entire life, selfishly keeping most of it to herself, occasionally sharing with the world via Connections, the College of Southern Maryland’s Literary Journal. We find this hoarding of excellence a criminal act, borderline felony behavior really, and so asked Joanne to share five of her little birds with our readers. TEXTure Magazine Editor-in-Chief Cliff Lynn sat down with Joanne Van Wie and asked her the Hard questions about poetry, life, and weightlessness. What was he thinking?

TEXTure Mag:  At what point in your life did you initially realize that the exploration of outer space was something you wanted to commit your life to? Or, more grammatically correct, at what point in your life did you initially realize that the exploration of outer space was something to which you wanted to commit your life?

Joanne Van Wie:  That’s a very daring question to open up with and actually, I am terrified of outer space. I have only recently realized just the opposite, that I need to finally commit my life to the exploration of inner space: the thoughts, the feelings, the many satellites driving in and out of orbits beyond my control. Inner space exploration is more than challenging enough!

TM:  How many actual werewolves have you met?

JVW:  I think this is actually a trick question. What you wanted to know really is how many full moons I’ve lived through, and the answer to that is: many.

TM:  No I really was curious about the werewolves. I find your poetry lovely and mystical, but mostly very powerful. Have you always written poetry?

JVW:  I have written some form of poetry since I was very young, although the regularity and volume of it has varied to a large extent. I only began to get more serious about poetry in 2002 when I began submitting my work to Connections magazine at the College of Southern Maryland (CSM). I quickly realized how incredible it felt to be able to share what I had written. It is truly life-changing to have someone there to listen, even if it is only through an open mic.

TM:  Is there someone in particular, or an event, that first inspired you to write poetry?

JVW:  Yes, well, not to write poetry per se, because I was already writing on my own, but to write better poetry, yes, poetry that hoped to do more than tell a story, but at the same time to allow a reader to really connect up—to be that truth that the reader knew was inside but could not identify. The first poem that touched me in such a way was “This is a Photograph of Me”, by Margaret Atwood, and she is, to this day, my ‘go to’ for favorite poetry.

TM:  Do you have any other artistic talents and/or passions? And keep in mind, children may be reading this interview when it’s published.

JVW:  This is such a great question because poetry is really just a picture that you speak with very precisely chosen words. I actually went for my undergraduate degree in Environmental Design and Architecture to Syracuse University, and was able to realize there the close connection between all the arts, the overlapping of poetry in architecture, fashion, and music, etc. So we all share at least one artistic talent of getting ourselves dressed and reading ourselves to the world as we walk through our day.

TM:  What is your favorite thing?

JVW:  Of course, this is a very difficult question to answer, and I must again keep those amazingly curious children in mind that still may be reading this interview…I suppose that Baci® chocolates would be thought shallow-minded and jogging would be considered ‘me time’. Long, warm showers would be wasteful and sunbathing unhealthy, so I’ll just go with brown paper packages tied up in string…or my incredible children (possibly packaged much the same way).

TM:  Wasn't expecting that one. Who is Joanne Van Wie, really?

JVW:  Since I cannot pull out a dictionary and find my name in among the Js, this is definitely a challenging question as well. Carl Jung once said, “The world will ask you who you are. And if you do not know, the world will tell you.” I say, If you do not repeatedly check in to see again who you are, you will not know, because we are always different that we were even a week or a day ago. One must not fool themselves to think they are unchanged by even the smallest word to the heart, by even a clear bird call in the window at dawn.

TM:  Tell us about the poetry scene in Southern Maryland.

JVW:  It is so important that we are part of a larger community as writers and poets. I know there are writing groups that meet in Lexington Park and California, however, I have really settled myself more up north. I am part of a wonderful group called The Poet’s Circle, which meets at Calvert Memorial Library, and I also love to travel up this way at least one time a month. The poetry scene always blossoms though, wherever we choose to plant our voices. Each of us helps it grow.

TM:  I understand that you have taken creative writing classes at CSM. Dish the program, and tell us which professors stand out in your experience and why.

JVW:  Well, I’ve only taken two classes from CSM, and, of course, both stand out because they were only-children for all intents and purposes, spaced out by about ten years. Neal Dwyer and Rachel Heinhorst both were incredible teachers because of their love for the art of poetry itself. They have always been welcoming for advice and encouragement through their work, but also through the publication of Connections magazine, which gives our student and community voices a page from which to speak.

TM:  If you could meet up with the last person who interviewed you after the interview, where would you meet him/her?

JVW:  The best place to meet anybody is always where they are at the moment.

TM:  Do you feel ok today?

JVW:  Thank you for asking, and I feel much better than just OK today because we are here, together, discussing the topic of poetry. Just being here would qualify my feelings as OK. Being here, together, would raise it up a few notches, but being here, together, AND discussing poetry qualifies my feelings as way over the top.

TM:  Do you write every day? Do you have a schedule?

JVW:  This is a rather typical question asked of poets, but no, I do not get a chance to write every day or on a schedule. Life is just too busy and chaotic at this point, but one day I do hope to regularize my efforts a bit. Writing is much like a good stretch for the brain.

TM:  Do you write poetry or does poetry write you?

JVW:  I believe that activities like journaling are those where our writing is free-flowing in that sense of writing itself. Our poetry, however, usually takes crafting of sounds and lines and clear intent. I like to think I write my poetry, although somewhat by instinct, also with strong intention. 

TM:  Who’s your favorite poet and why?

JVW:  As I stated earlier, my favorite poet will always be Margaret Atwood because her poem “This is a Photograph of Me” is the first poem that really wakened me. I had been there, in that lake for so long under the water, or at least I felt it so, but I needed her to help me recognize my own whereabouts. The fact that I was not alone in the lake was critical at that point, but too, Atwood’s close analysis of the qualities of water and time meant so much. My favorite quotation of hers is just this, “You don’t look back along time but down through it, like water. Sometimes this comes to the surface, sometimes that, sometimes nothing. Nothing goes away.”

TM:  What do you do for fun?

JVW:  That’s easy. Of course, there are many fun things such as family and friends, but mostly, I write or even just hope to sometime soon. The anticipation of writing is fun as well.

TM:  As a poet/astronaut, how does weightlessness affect your writing?

JVW:  Once again, I am not much of an outer space explorer, and I would have to counter that my sensation is quite the opposite. I feel the gravity of things: longings, recollections, expectations, burnt toast on Sundays. I have never felt weightless that I can recall.

TM:  Do you have any questions for me? Please limit to one-half of one question, as I am a very private person.

JVW:  When you write a poem about your mother…

TM:  Well-played, miss. If you were a mammal or bird or insect or fish, which would you be? Not which one would you want to be by choice, but really, which one? And, Molly Ringwald is not an acceptable answer.

JVW:  I would be a fish because they are always coming up with lines…That is an attempt at a joke, of course, but really I would still be the girl in the lake. I have always been the girl in the depth of the lake.

TM:  What is your favorite tongue-twister?

JVW:  I don’t really have one I guess, but I will say that Margaret Atwood has a children’s book out entitled Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes that explores tongue-twisters heavily relying on the letter R…it must be worth a read.

TM:  Have you ever really considered cheese?

JVW:  I have not really done so, but I am thinking that you are referring to the humorous quote by G.K. Chesterton, “Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” I too stand poetically silent.

TM:  I was unaware of this quote. What will your next poem be about?

JVW:  Possibly cheese since it has been so carelessly neglected.

TM:  Yes! I understand you homeschool your children. That’s cool. Do you teach them poetry at home?

JVW:  For the first fifteen years or so I did a great job of using poetry memorization to train the mind. Lately, however, with the age range of the children being so wide, the events of busy life have simply overshadowed poetry memorization. One thing they will always remember for certain is that mom loves her poetry!