Meet the Author: Jan Duncan-O'Neal

Thursday, Mar 9, 2017
Tagged As: poetry
Jan Duncan-O'Neal

Jan Duncan-O’Neal was born and raised in Kansas City, has lived most of her adult years around the Midwest and in southern Colorado. She majored in English and theater in college and received a Master’s Degree in Library Science at the University of Iowa, where she later taught storytelling and children’s literature classes. She has authored 11 professional books (published by Libraries Unlimited) and conducted workshops nationally for teachers and librarians. As a professional storyteller, she encouraged others to pass on their own stories and retell the world’s great folk tales. Upon retirement, Jan turned her energies to writing poetry.

Jan will read her poetry at The Thomas Zvi Wilson reading series.

Tuesday, March 21st
​6 - 8 pm
Central Resource Library - Carmack Community Room

Tell us about yourself. How long have you been writing poetry?
Before I wrote poetry, I listened to my dear grandfather recite poetry and tell me stories. I grew up loving words and the sounds of language. I wrote many things such as 11 books of creative ideas for teachers, but when I retired from my library career, I turned to writing poetry, about 14 years ago.

Why is poetry important?
Poetry is important because it can touch us down to our core. It can draw us together, people who share this planet. It can be lighthearted or more serious. It is not the stuff of sing song. It is especially important as we live frazzled lives, too caught up with media, gimicks and games. We can enter into ourselves and outward to others in the world of the poem.

How does a poem begin for you? Idea? Word? Image? Form?
Poetry can begin with a word, a title, an image that sticks in my mind and won't let go--a black umbrella thrown down a hill as an image for facing death, or the image of my brother's laughter, the sound of it caught in a tree like a tissue ready to blow away. I'm not a formalist poet so form isn't a factor for me.

What is the best writing advice you've received?
The best writing advice I got was to go beyond the expected. If you use cliches, worn out language, you'll be bored. Never bore yourself or you'll bore your audience. And keep writing!

What do you find most rewarding about the writing life?
The most rewarding part is hitting the mark. Finding the right word, the right image, the right ending--the point in which everything comes together. The ah-ha moment.

Who are your favorite writers?
Favorite writers--so many. Locally, Alarie Tennille and Maryfrances Wagner. Outside of this world, Andrea Hollander, my wonderful poet/mentor. Others include Edward Hirsch, Linda Pastan, Jane Kenyon, George Bilgere, Jack Ridl. For fiction, I read novelists who deal also with art (Susan Vreeland, Tracy Chevalier) or food or just wonderful vibrant writing such as Adriana Trigiani.

What are you reading right now?
Right now I'm rereading a little gem, I Love Paris by Eliza Bard. I'm eager to read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Samples of Jan's work can be found at Your Daily Poem and Red Eft Review.