At Johnson County Library, we love local authors. And when that local author is one of our own, we can't help but celebrate! Before transferring to our Leawood Library to work in the Youth Services Department, Hannah Jane Weber was active in our writing programs. We are proud to share that Hannah Jane had been awarded the 2017 Dylan Thomas American Award for the poem "Scenic Rail Tour" which is published in issue 63 of Rosebud. Of Hannah Jane's work, Grand Prize Winner, Judge Molly Peacock says "it is a twenty-first century nature poem" and she chose it "because of the double helix of its form and its content."
While we can't share the actual poem -- you can seek it out from Rosebud -- Hannah Jane took some time to tell us about her relationship with writing and poetry.
Why is poetry important?
Poetry is one of the many ways we can choose to express ourselves and connect to others. I’m drawn to poetry because of the importance of line breaks and word economy. With poetry, the white space has the same weight as words, and can even be louder than words. You can make or break a poem with line breaks, a challenge that is both infuriating and exciting. I love how poetry conveys an incredible amount of meaning in the smallest way possible.
Tell us about your writing process. Where do you write? How do you write?
I’m always writing and jotting down any thought that lights up my mind. About once a month, I put all of these thoughts into a folder. In addition to my folder of thoughts, I have folders of poems in various stages of completion, or abandonment rather, which is from a favorite quote of mine by Paul Valery, "A poem is never finished, only abandoned." My folder system is very simple. A folder is assigned to each day of the week, and for about an hour a day (usually during lunch), I work on a poem from that day’s folder. Once or twice a week I write with absolutely no time limit and regard to folders. Rarely do I write an entire poem in one sitting, and only a couple times a month does a poem move to the next folder. It's a system that works really well for me, and I enjoy each step of the writing process immensely. As for where I write, I am very fortunate that I can write nearly anywhere so long as music is playing.
You’ve been blogging at squishytulips.blogspot.com since 2009. Why did you start blogging, and have your reasons for continuing changed? Does your blog inform your poetry and vice-versa?
My blog began as a way to share my life with family and friends. In 2009, I found a gratitude journal that changed how I record my memories. It inspired me to put a positive spin on everything. I try to do the same with my blog, and attempt to have a sense of humor and/or find a silver lining with each post. I often sit down to write a blog and it ends up as poem material or vice versus.
What’s the worst writing advice you’ve received? The best?
I only remember the good advice, which is very Pollyanna, I know. Someone once told me to create an editing checklist for poems I’m ready to "abandon.” This advice has radically improved how I edit my poems. A few of my favorite things on my checklist include looking for identical words, stanza length and count, omitting qualifiers, questioning adverbs, and reading it aloud (my audience is comprised of two golden retrievers).
Do you have a favorite literary magazine?
I love literary magazines. When I was a teenager, I discovered my first literary magazine in a thrift shop. It was an old copy of New Letters, which is UMKC's journal. It featured the poet, Mbembe Milton Smith, in addition to other writers of both prose and poetry. It blew me away. I admired Mbembe Milton Smith and New Letters so much I decided to attend college at UMKC. Though I transferred to KU and finished my Bachelor's degree there, I still have a wealth of gratitude and love for New Letters. I wouldn't be in Kansas City without that worn-out 1983 issue! I am just as enamored with literary journals as I was over 15 years ago when I stumbled upon my first one. Each journal is like a small community of writers living within the pages of a book. As a writer and reader, I feel a sense of belonging that both nourishes and inspires me. If you're new to journals and/or love surprises there's a wonderful journal of the month club that sends a different journal each month for a year.
Who are your favorite authors?
I have so many!
- Favorite children’s authors – Mo Willems, Jane O’Connor, Sharon Creech, and Meg Cabot
- Favorite memoirist – Susan Branch
- Favorite poets - Mary Oliver, Lisel Mueller, Brian Andreas, Ted Kooser, and Billy Collins
What are you reading right now?
- Light the Dark edited by Joe Fassler - a book of essays by famous writers (Stephen King and Billy Collins for example) who have chosen a favorite quote and written about the profound impact the quote has had on their writing. It’s inspirational, fascinating, and is definitely providing much-needed creative fuel.
- At Home with Dogs and Their Designers by Susanna Salk - a beautiful book for both dog lovers and those who enjoy interior design.
- Women in Sports by Rachel Ignotofsky - a book about amazing women athletes who have changed the world and the sports they play. P.S. this book is sooo pretty. Ignotofsky is a brilliant artist.
- A Family Imprint by Nancy Borowick - a photographic journey of the lives of Nancy’s parents, who both passed away from cancer within a year of each other. It’s an entirely different perspective on grieving and healing and is available through interlibrary loan.
- Yukon Ho! By Bill Watterson - I’m always in the middle of a comics book (I can’t live without my comics).