JENNE' R ANDREWS is one of The Passionate Transitory's most seriously accomplished poets, and we admire tremendously her skill with word and line, with trope and metaphor. She plumbs depths of experience and emotion with a fearlessness and an intensity quite rare in poetry these days, and always with a structured control which reins in the falsely melodramatic. There's a searing, lyrical quality to her best work – and also an edge of danger. But dare to accompany her along the precipice and you'll be glad you did. The poet Ruth Mowry said about Jenne's poems: "They feel like hand grenades disguised as delicious avocados." We can't put it any better than this.
Can you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
And how old you were when you wrote it?
All of sixteen.
And what it was about?
It was a Romantic piece. It began: “I looked in the lake and saw the sky / soft and tan and edged with fire, / twilight’s clouds came passing by / in shapes of castles, lofty-spired.” And so on . . .
Even at that age I believe I had a sense of the mystical, that it is remarkable to exist with other things that make up the perceived universe . . .
I made my early poems into a booklet and have since lost the last few copies.
Name a favourite poem or two . . .
"I Knew A Woman" (Theodore Roethke), "Love On The Farm" (DH Lawrence), Rilke’s work, Whitman's "Leaves Of Grass" – and I completely identify with many passages of "Out Of The Cradle Endlessly Rocking", the necessary narcissistic music of that poem:
. . . and a few of your favourite poets.
My great mentor, Robert Bly, for the breadth of his vision, his lyrical fearlessness. I love Christian Wiman’s translations of Osip Mandelstam. Pablo Neruda. Wallace Stevens, particularly the great “Sunday Morning.”
I didn’t encounter free verse until my first year "at university", and then the visionary intimacy of Plath, Sexton, and some of the male poets completely swept me away. I also, as a freshman, kept a journal as I made my way through the English Romantics. I think the musicality of my language was greatly influenced by the English poets, and the modernist diffidence in Eliot, especially "The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock". Also it's easy to remain unaware of the poet who was the Whitman of his time: Thomas McGrath, and his poem "Letter To An Imaginary Friend".
Do you talk about poetry to your friends or is it a secret part of your life?
Well, I have to admit to having one close friend locally and then the wonderful ongoing "salon" on Facebook. My horseback riding accident has meant a sea change in my life: I used to be out and about in the cafés and thrift stores, getting together with friends and colleagues, and now I spend days at a time never so much as going out to warm the car up. I live very much at the interior and in a relationship with creativity. Thanks to FB I’ve reconnected to poets I knew in Minneapolis-St. Paul as well as encountering writers previously unknown to me.
When I review a book I feel extremely close to the poet. After all, the reviewer is exploring someone’s soul! As my sense of self, my self-definition is "poet", then it often comes up in conversation.
Do you write poetry for yourself, or for others, or for both?
I never think of it all in those terms, although I am often moved to try an elegy and I feel loss keenly; I often feel that poetry is a kind of possession by a force of great duality, the blessing and curse sort of thing. I constantly hear lines; somehow my psyche chatters on. I have a laptop in every room and I only keep the ones I can boot quickly, before I lose my way into a poem.
Is it important to you if your poems get published or not?
It has been quite important to me; I cherish the experiences of having had two chapbooks and a full collection published, although many years have passed and I was sidetracked in my living out a rigorous life in the "American West".
I had a wonderful start in the Twin Cities and appeared in many magazines nationally; when I returned to Colorado in 1978 to settle family matters, I was claimed by the land. I still managed to pull out twenty years of university teaching, a Master’s and an MFA, but by the seat of my pants. My heart was with the dogs and horses. All by way of saying that I lost my momentum and the kind of weekly clerical activity of mailing out poems and getting them back and sending them out once more.
I have found it extremely fulfilling to have two blogs, one of which is where I post drafts of much of my work. The Facebook Salon is extremely valuable to me; writers I admire weigh in and I feel highly praised. We all need this, I feel.
I do hope to get my current manuscript, "Voluble Dusk, Stubborn Love", into print. I see my published work as my gift to the world i.e. what I did with my life. Perhaps we all feel a bit this way . . .
Do you think poetry is important in the global scale of things or just a pleasant, indulgent hobby like needlework or trainspotting?
Well of course, it is very important. Art is so vital; it nourishes the spirit and helps us carry on. I surround myself with beauty. I write to Bach and Mozart, and I love to cook, write, sing, paint, all in the same day on a creative high.
What does poetry really mean to you?
I’m not sure about this question – the "really mean" – but perhaps I can say that it defines my existence, gives my life a purpose I would not otherwise have. I am unmarried and have no children and only one brother as far as immediate family goes. I could never carry to term and have sublimated my maternal instincts in my animals. Loving, the exchange of love, has nourished my muse, which in turn sustains and nurtures me, I think.
Is poetry better than sex?
Now this question assumes that sex is wonderful!
Actually I think that at this stage of my life writing in the sun in a creative euphoria is better than making love.
Now, making love is, of course, euphoric under the right circumstances, i.e. when both people are committed to mutual joy and are not afraid to look right into each other’s eyes and let go. I have always found this a very mystical experience and it has fed my work; are we not the most fully alive in such a moment?
I think of Bach; I am fascinated by the intricacy and ebullience of his music. He sired twenty children, and I always imagine him going to the cathedral to compose at the great organ, so to speak, and then running home for some porridge and a quickie, perhaps.
Creating is truly about the agony and ecstasy, and so is lovemaking, in my opinion. People have misunderstandings and fears, and women especially must open up more to their partners, and the partner express his deepest desire to do whatever will put her into orbit.
And yet, as delicious as all of that is, and has been, at moments of my life, at this stage I love my independence, to be alone with language. I am my fullest self when writing.