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Monday, October 21, 2013

Jane Kenyon

"I think that writing . . . was my effort to understand and control what was happening to me.  For me poetry's a safe place always, a refuge, and it has been since I took it up in the eighth grade, so it was natural for me to write about those things that were going on in my soul."

Jane Kenyon
American Poet
1947 - 1995

Is your art a safe place for you — a place of refuge from the chaotic world in which we live?   Does it give you control of things you have no control over?  Does writing help you understand who you are and why you do the things that you do?

Why do you write poetry?  Or paint?  Or tell stories?  I keep going back to this question in my life.  And I still do not know the answer.  I can mouth the  platitudes with the best of them.  "I do it because I have to."  "I have no choice.  Something inside has to get out."  Yet, those really don't answer the question.  All I know is that I write.  Why I write remains a mystery.  I did not have a miserable childhood.  I have not suffered physical or emotional abuse.  I have had a normal life — a safe life.  The paradox is that the secure life gives me the freedom to be wild in my mind.  My mind can go to places my body would never venture.

Does writing create a safe place for me?  I would not say that it creates a safe place for me.  I think writing creates a happy place — a peaceful place.  And probably most important — a creative place where limits do not exist, where I can go crazy, where I can pretend to be somebody I am not.  What kind of place does art create for you?

Unlike some writers, most of my writing is not autobiographical.  I enter the lives of characters I invent.  Even the poet writing the poem is a character.  The poet is not me.  Maybe a facet of me, but not me.  Are you the writer or the persona of the writer?  Does the writer exist or is he only the vessel through which the writing flows?

Creative Practice
This week pretend to write from the point of view of someone who is not you.  Pretend the writer is not you.  

Jane Kenyon was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  She graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. and a M.A.   While a student, she met the poet, Donald Hall, and they were married in 1972.  He was nineteen years her senior.  Four collections of her poetry were published in her lifetime.  She died in 1995 at the age of 47 from leukemia.