Monday, October 10, 2011

Interview with Ann Iversion on her new book (reading at Hamline 15 October)

It's a busy month and a busy week for alumni!  Here's another reading and an interview with the reader! 

GLS alum Ann Iverson will be reading from her new poetry collection, Art Lessons, at Hamline on Oct. 15, 7:00pm, in Giddens Learning Center. Ann and I finished up our MFA programs about the same time and have been in a writer's group together for about the past 10 years. Her art and poetry has been such an inspiration to me that I wanted to talk with her a little more about this new book and share it with the readers of this blog. If you haven't had a chance to read Ann's work, you now have three great books to add to your reading list.  --Teresa Boyer

Teresa: What inspired this third collection of poetry?

Ann: This book comes from a personal need to burn the torch for art and poetry, which often gets overlooked in a world saturated with technologies and gloomy forecasts. During the war of which my stepson served three tours of duty (the subject of my second book, Definite Space) I needed to find what God meant and how making art and poetry helped me to define what it means to exist. I am here and I am alive. Making art and poetry help me to exist in such a confusing world. 

Teresa: It seems like such a short time since your last collection was published and I know you are creating art and working full-time, too. How do you manage to fuel and sustain such a rich body of work?

Ann: I have no idea! I have a motto: One by one I get things done, but ten by ten, I’m lost again. But really, the thought of getting messy with paints and putting on the last glazing effect keeps me energized and makes me whole. It’s a slow process, actually, depending on the situations that life offers us. I consider Van Gogh who painted over 900 masterpieces in a decade span and then consider what I’ve done in a certain way. My style at work is to keep those who follow energized with promise and acceptance, and, thus, that is returned to me. I believe in whimsy and whimsy energizes me. I have sisters and friends who believe in me and a wiener dog who keeps me laughing despite the pressures. And I don’t have small children, yet a stepson who has served three tours of duty in Iraq so the emotional strain is quite significant.

Teresa: How is this collection different from your previous ones?

Ann: This collection feels more like my first collection, Come Now to the Window, in that I did not have one topic, as I did in Definite Space. It’s a whirl of poems that came together gracefully only due to Kirsten Dierking’s extraordinary talent in vision and manuscript arrangement. But on the other hand, weaving through them are the gracious experiences of life and what it has to offer. When my second book was in publication mode, I began to write again, stretching towards a new understanding after the effects of the book Definite Space, based on my stepson’s three tours of duty in Iraq as a Military Police Officer and canine dog handler. Art offered and offers me solace. Like right now as I write, I’m thinking of my newest piece out in my makeshift garage/art studio and want to tackle it some more, but the job and life demands, this interview does not. I love it. Staying in the moment of what you love is important and I love this.  Truly I do.

Teresa: How does your practice of art inform your practice of writing and vice versa?

Ann: It’s a peculiar, amazing exchange and happens either in the moment of working in both genres or just on a crazy day of work and then I see or hear something that triggers the connection. When I paint and my mind is clear of crap, often lines come to me. Yet when I write, my mind is not often cleared of crap and so…I think visual arts is often more freeing because you don’t have to worry so much about how it will be interpreted. That could be wildly debated, but in my experience in working in both creative activities, I just get less freaked out when I show a painting or collage to the world or even friends versus a poem.

Teresa: What poets and artists are you most interested in today?

Ann: Joyce Sutphen, Arlinda Henderson, Tim Flugum, Li Young Lee, Mary Oliver and the list goes. Sometimes I am very inclined about reading a book about war. The Holocaust haunts me.

Teresa: What subjects continue to interest you as an artist?

Ann: Big wild flowers. That’s the only thing I know how to do. I’m not a trained artist but just a person who likes color and add beauty to my small world.

Teresa: What advice do you have for other Hamline alumnus who are trying to pursue publication?

Ann: Be good to people, because people are good. Be generous with your love for the world. Start small, publish in local venues first. Don’t disregard what you might think is a trite opportunity. But then go for the gusto and try to crack the glass domes of prestigious journals. Poetry and life are strange and peculiar and beautiful and magnificent, and the best yet: unpredictable. Even in this world intoxicated with technology, there is a place and need for poetry. If it makes you happy to write, keep doing it. It’s your legacy. Throw your hand-held device into the pond and write.

Teresa: Where can we find your book, Art Lessons?

Ann: Hamline bookstore, Amazon, technical devices for reading books (whatever they might be and they are cool though I am not familiar with them,) and small local bookstores as well as mainstream.  

Ann Iverson is a visual artist and poet and has worked in education for years. She holds Masters degrees in both fine arts and liberal studies from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN. Her work has appeared in several literary magazines. Ann’s poetry collections include Come Now to the Window published by Laurel Poetry Collective, Definite Space, and now the soon to be released Art Lessons published by Holy Cow! Press. A few of her poems have been featured on Garrison Keillor’s public radio segment, ‘Writer's Almanac.’ Ann's artwork was recently selected and installed in the new University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital. 

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