Posted by: scottishwriters | February 19, 2015

Jenny from the Block

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Thanks to everyone who attended Jennifer William’s session at the SWC.

Originally from New Jersey, Jennifer has resided in Edinburgh since 2001 (after graduating from Wellesley College, near Boston). Describing the influence of her tutor, Frank Bidart, Jennifer also namechecked Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, and Louise Glück (paralleling the heroes of one Chris Agee, as revealed during his seminar at the SWC last month). This affords great insight into the North American pantheon of poets! Meanwhile, Jennifer’s work with the band Opul evinces her Beat inspiration.

Jennifer’s work is dynamic and varied, ranging from the sophisticated mythological explorations of her first collection, Condition of Fire (based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses), to the minimalism of her poems which comprise concise, avian symbolism (Jennifer’s second collection, Locust and Marlin). Her view of poetry remains circumspect; Jennifer ranks the joy of moving a single person (a friend of hers recently expressed the desire to have a line from one of Jennifer’s poems tattooed onto her foot!) above sales and event attendances.

Jennifer’s output is occasionally experimental (or “abstract”, as she thinks of it), in the style of John Ashbery; privileging music and images over a single narrative sense. Jennifer learned a lot from open mics, as should all aspiring poets – there is surely no greater way to test your ideas, than against a responsive audience. Here, and during her employment at the Traverse Theatre (before her present occupation at the Scottish Poetry Library), Jennifer learned that if a poet keeps stumbling over a line then maybe it’s time for that line to change.

Jennifer’s chief advice is to keep writing all the time. It “strengthens all sorts of muscles”.

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