Poet of the Week: Jan Epton Seale

 Poet of the Week Jan Epton Seale
Jan Epton Seale, 2012 Texas Poet Laureate, is a native Texan who lives in McAllen in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.  She attended Baylor and holds degrees from the University of Louisville and North Texas State University.

          Seale's poetry has appeared in such journals as New America, Phoebe, Descant, Nimrod, and Kalliope, as well as in many anthologies and on the NPR program “Theme and Variations.”  Her poems are collected in six volumes:  Bonds and Sharing the House (RiverSedge Press, Edinburg, TX); Texas Poets in Concert: A Quartet (with 3 other poets, University of North Texas Press, Denton, TX); The Yin of It  (Pecan Grove Press, San Antonio, TX); Valley Ark, with Ansen Seale (The Knowing Press); and The Wonder Is: New and Selected Poems 1974-2004 (Panther Creek Press, Houston, TX). A seventh book of poems, Nape, is forthcoming. 

          Her prose writing has appeared in such places as Texas Monthly, The Yale Review, and The Chicago Tribune.  Seven of her short stories were selected for PEN/Syndicated Fiction Projects, with two broadcast over National Public Radio.  A collection of short stories, Airlift, is published by T.C.U. Press. A second book of short stories, Dearness Happens, is forthcoming from Ink Brush Press.  Homeland, a set of essays, is published by New Santander Press. The Nuts-&-Bolts Guide To Writing Your Life Story (textbook) and Audie & Company (biography) are published by The Knowing Press.

          Dramatic works by Seale have been produced in Boston, and in Texas in San Angelo, Wichita Falls, Austin, Salado, Edinburg, and McAllen.

          Seale held a Creative Writing Fellowship through the National Endowment for the Arts in l982. She has been a member of the Speakers’ Bureau for Humanities Texas, and is on the artist roster of the Texas Commission on the Arts. She is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters.

Facebook: www.Facebook/Jan Seale - 2012 Texas Poet Laureate

Poet on Poetry's Questions for Jan Epton Seale

1.        What inspires you as a poet?
  Anything that is unusual, interesting, or makes me think and feel may cause me to want to write a poem.

2.        What advice do you have for other poets?
  Always be learning, experimenting. Take your gift and calling seriously. Don’t overly yearn to write like another poet you admire, or be jealous of other poets. Have fun when you write.

3.       What prompted you to start writing poetry?
  Probably some poetic genes from my family stirred early in me. My father and his father wrote poetry. Also, I spent much time alone as a sickly child just as I was beginning to read and write. I entertained myself by memorizing poems—because I liked the sound. I can remember putting down a book of poems about birds and thinking, "Well, I can do that," and beginning to compose a poem. The urge has never left me. 

4.       Where do you see yourself going in the future as a poet?
  I'll keep writing and hopefully have several more books before my productivity wears out.

5.        What are your favorite poetry journals?
  There are so many! I read Poetry, Concho River Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, and online and several others. I try to read all the poems in any issue of a journal which has been kind enough to accept and print a poem of mine, and I often get a subscription or make a donation.  

6.         What should someone do, besides writing great poetry, to posture themselves for the position of a state Poet Laureate?
 Like any public prize, there are many worthy poets who are never tapped for it. I didn't think at all about it for myself until a couple of cycles ago when several people suggested nominating me. In hindsight, perhaps it helps to have a body of published work and to have been active in the literary arts of one's state. In a huge state like Texas, with so many fine poets, sheer good fortune plays a role.

7.         Do you have any special plans for your year as Texas Poet Laureate in 2012?
  I would like to travel around the state, celebrating Texas' vast natural resources and visiting with people interested in making art and enjoying others' art. Poetry can be so powerful in people's lives. I'd like to help folks reconnect with that basic drumbeat within all of us. Also, because I have published fiction and essays, and have taught memoir writing for many years, and since there's no Fiction Laureate or Essay Laureate,  I may be useful in discussions and presentations in those areas as well. As for subjects, I'm very interested in the natural world, creativity, elder wisdom, women's lives, and spirituality. So I hope to get a chance to interact with people about these themes, with poetry as the vehicle.  

Poetry by Jan Seale

Dealing in Futures
            The sonogram snows, then straightens
            to a quarter‑pie of glacial bed,
            conglomerate tumbling, glowing debris.
            Now a shape too sharp for chance appears,
            a form swimming through glitter.
            Puffy eyes, blunt nose, no chin.
            It gives a charming marmot smile.
            The doctor calibrates in flowers,
            stop‑actioning with tiny asterisks
            to measure side to side, front to back.
            The femur shines like a sunken ingot,
            receives the blessed centimeters;
            the brain lobes are twins, thank God,
            and sit distinct in reason, art.
            We're cool, dispassionate until we see
            this spirit‑life experiments with agendas:
            an astronaut afloat in cabin fever,
            harpist practicing arpeggios,
            cyclist pedaling watery meters
            on a bike not yet imagined.
            While we strive to find (eyes watering
            from stares or seeing our future fleshed)
            a boy?  a girl?‑‑oblivious to voyeurism,
            it bends to play with feet, check toes. 
            And then insistently declining our offer
            to know its sex, it settles to taste a thumb,
            and for this one last time a mystery,
            to moon us.

            First published in The Cape Rock (Fall, l994).

Jan Seale




Thank you for waiting patiently until we return,
red lace of Switzerland, green leather of Ireland,
papier mâché with sloe-eyed natives harvesting.
Still, you have a life of your own, a job to envy.

Who would not like, hour after hour, to be pressed
with ideas in the den, feel the tickle of feathers
from a coffee table hawk, be allowed to snigger
at a bathroom cousin shut in an academic journal?

Plastic Pharaoh new-dug from the museum store,
embroidered red poppy of an August birthday,
laminated rosemary from a Northwest garden,
tiny zarape migrating from the Mexican market,

placemat laid for a dinner of paragraphs,
rooster crowing from the edge of the page,
prisoner condemned to the medieval press
or a long, long wait on the chopping block,

transformed from souvenir to consort
of the best words in their best order,
what's it like to hold a place in time and space,
to separate yesterday from tomorrow?

And what’s not to envy in your life—
to be lifted with love, fingered, nibbled, held close,
and, when all is known for now,
put back between the sheets?

published in The Wonder Is: New and Selected Poems 1974-2004  (Panther Creek Press, 2005).

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