Interview in the Sun Valley, Idaho newspaper, “The Weekly Sun” on July 22, 2015
Woolson House hosts poetry reading
Renowned poet Janeé Baugher held reading sessions in Rollins English classes.
Janeé Baugher, a poet, visited Rollins College last Wednesday, September 10. During her visit, she gave a poetry reading in Woolson House in the evening and led workshops in several English classes during the day. Baugher has written two books of poetry, The Body’s Physics and Coordinates of Yes. She read poems from both books at the reading, in addition to answering questions from the audience. “I love the art form of compression. I’m really interested in saying a lot in very few words; it’s one of the reasons I was drawn to poetry,” said Baugher.
Baugher often takes inspiration from science, music, art, and other works of literature when writing her poems. She often directly bases her work on these sources. This style is called ekphrastic poetry. Many of her poems are inspired by works of art she sees in museums. She also sometimes writes “pastiches,” a sort of collage of words from another writer.
Baugher spends a substantial amount of time on each poem she writes—it usually takes her about a year to completely finish a poem. She says each word aloud and focuses on how it will sound. “I don’t use strict rhyme and meter. Every word choice is evaluated on many different levels, and one of them is musicality,” said Baugher.
For aspiring writers, Baugher recommends the methods of stream of consciousness and free writing. She encourages adopting her own habit of writing for at least fifteen minutes a day about whatever pops into her mind. “I will see an image or hear a musical note or see a word and that will be the things that sparks me to the blank page. And then I do a free-write and see if anything comes of that,” said Baugher. She usually evaluates her free writes several months later, and looks for inspiration and energy in her stream of conscious writing. She then works on developing the ideas in her free writes into poems.
Baugher tackles ekphrastic writing in Field’s End October Roundtable
By CONNIE MEARS
Bainbridge Island Review Staff writer
October 14, 2011 · 1:49 PM
Writer Janée J. Baugher stumbled into ekphrastic writing accidentally at the Guggenheim museum when a small painting impacted her enough that she sat right down on the floor and started writing a poem.
“I was even yelled at by the security guard,” she said Wednesday on the phone.
The painting by Georg Baselitz, aptly entitled “Der Dichter” or “The Poet,” introduced Baugher to a creative house of mirrors: a poet writing about a piece of visual art depicting a poet. Who knows if the poet in the painting was writing about a piece of art?
Examples of ekphrastic writing, a cross-pollinating artform, abound, perhaps because artists of all mediums often run in the same circles.
Baugher will share the results of 15-year’s worth of exploration at the October Field’s End Writers’ Roundtable presentation, “Visual Arts in the Literary Arts: How and Why We Write Ekphrastically” from 7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the Bainbridge Public Library.
Baugher calls ekphrasis, from the Greek ek and phrasis or “out” “speak,” a “reason to celebrate” the human ability to see.
After backpacking through Europe six times in a decade, Baugher assembled a collection of writings, “Coördinates of Yes,” half of which were inspired by visual artwork of primarily the “long-dead” masters.
Baugher uses visual art as a starting point for her writing, illustrating T.S. Eliott’s theory that poetry is a way of “escaping the personality.” Unlike many ekphrastic writers, Baugher doesn’t describe works of art in literal terms. Instead the art works as a point of inspiration, a starting point from which she embarks on her own creative journey.
“It’s like scaffolding.,” she said. “Eventually the story starts to reveal itself. You literally use the painting, but not as a literal interpretation of it.”
She has written in response to the art work of strangers as well as friends, even going so far as to pose for a painter in hopes of inspiring a poem.
“It was hellacious,” she said. “Four months sitting naked in a studio. But I did get the poem.”
At Tuesday’s Roundtable Baugher will explore the use of ekphrasis adopted by writers such as Gertrude Stein, Rainer Maria Rilke and Frank O’Hara, and define the boundaries that “naysayers of the world” say ekphrastic writers cross.
Baugher holds a BS in human physiology from Boston University and an MFA in creative writing from Eastern Washington University. For the past decade, she has taught at Highline Community College, the University of Washington Experimental College, Interlochen Center for the Arts, Richard Hugo House and elsewhere.
Baugher regularly collaborates with visual artists, composers and choreographers. Her recent collaborations were produced at University of Cincinnati–Conservatory of Music and Dance Now! Ensemble. She is the author of a collection of ekphrastic and travel poems, “Coördinates of Yes” (2010), and in 2011 she presented her work at the Library of Congress.
To learn more, visit JaneeJBaugher.wordpress.com.
Field’s End Writers’ Roundtable
Janée J. Baugher presents “Visual Arts in the Literary Arts: How and Why We Write Ekphrastically” at the October Field’s End Writers’ Roundtable from 7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the Bainbridge Public Library.
The event is free and open to writers of all levels.
Roundtables are held the third Tuesday of every month.
For more information, visit http://www.fieldsend.org.
Contact Bainbridge Island Review Staff writer Connie Mears at email@example.com or 206-842-6613.
Seattle author’s poetry book is a nod to visual art
By Abby Holmes
World staff writer
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Inspiration can come anywhere, at any time. That’s why Janée Baugher likes to always have her journal handy.
The Seattle author has found herself inspired after rafting down the Wenatchee River, and even just spending an afternoon to herself while teaching in Michigan. Her 2010 book of poetry, “Coördinates of Yes,” came out of a trip through Europe, where she spent time visiting art museums. Ekphrasis — poems that describe artwork — was the result.
“I have 36 ekphrastic poems,” Baugher says of the book. “I was inspired by visual artists from the 1600s to present-day and wrote poems on modern art, art installations, sculpture and paintings.”
She reads from and discusses “Coördinates of Yes” at the Leavenworth Library on Friday, followed by a Saturday signing at A Book for All Seasons.
“If there are teachers in the community or parents or would-be writers who want to come and ask me about poetry in general or writing or books, I would love to field those types of questions,” she specifies. “I believe that a lot of us in the community are closeted poets.”
Baugher has a bachelor of science degree in applied physiology with a minor in chemistry from Boston University, as well as a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Eastern Washington University. She has taught writing at several schools and institutions, including the Richard Hugo House, and serves as a Humanities Washington Inquiring Minds Speaker.
“Coördinates of Yes” by Janée Baugher was composed during a six-week trip through Europe. It uses a technique known as “ekphrasis,” which is to describe or write about artwork.
Go!: When you traveled to Europe was that for the purpose of writing poetry, or did the book just come out of it?
Baugher: I wrote “Coördinates of Yes” when I was in graduate school. I needed to present a final poetry manuscript in order to graduate with a master of fine arts from Eastern Washington University. I was of the mindset that wherever I was, whatever I was doing, I needed to start and finish this book. I went to Europe hoping that the poems would come, but just being very open to the process. The other thing that took me to Europe was this Dublin Writers Workshop that EWU co-sponsors. I was going there for the express purpose of finally ending up in Dublin, but gave myself four weeks beforehand to travel, visit friends, see places and museums. It was during that trip that I came to the epiphany that really collaborating with these long-dead visual arts masters would be something I wanted to discover through my own writing and there borne “Coördinates of Yes.” So, it’s travelogue and poems to the visual arts, which also speaks to travel, so I really feel the book tends to have a wide audience. Perhaps many people find poetry terribly esoteric, but I don’t think that’s what this book is about. I think that anybody really can open it up and delight in a poem about the Berlin Wall or a poem about somebody ruminating on the Irish Sea, and then perhaps they can get closer to how it is they see the world.
Go!: How do you write about artwork?
Baugher: Ekphrasis comes from the Greek, meaning “to describe.” When I’m in a museum, I open up my journal and I go to the page absolutely freely. What I have discovered in my ekphrastic poems is, more times than not, I end up launching myself into the narrative of the artwork. And sometimes things creep in, like when I visited the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, there were lots of people taking pictures of the Mona Lisa. At that time, what they had set up was a partition that would come down in front of the painting to protect it from all of the flashbulbs. For the next 30 minutes, that would prevent anyone else from seeing that painting, because these visitors to the Louvre had the temerity to want to take pictures of the painting as a memento that they were there. Inevitably, I ended up writing about what I thought was going on with the painting on the other side of that partition. That really surprised me. Sometimes I imagine what it was like to be the model or imagine what it was like to be the painter, or the setting launches me into a completely different narrative that exists outside the painting. That’s why I love using the visual arts so much, is because I don’t know where the journey’s gonna take me. It’s just such a ride and such a surprise for me, that I think invariably the readers are surprised too.
Go!: What poets inspire you to write the way you do?
Baugher: Many of the poets I was reading during the creation of “Coördinates of Yes” include May Sarton, Theodore Roethke and Jorie Graham. These are people who have great rhythm, and a lusciousness of language in their writing. It reminds me of William Carlos Williams, who said, “A poem is a machine made of words.” I’m constantly on the lookout for people like Amy Clampitt, who can work the language on a level that has a sound resonance and that’s highly intellectual and that, for me, is an entrée into a new diction and a new sense of what language can do.
Go!: Do you ever find yourself using a thesaurus when you write?
Baugher: Absolutely. Paul Valéry, a French poet, said that poets have more trouble finding ideas to fit their words than words to fit their ideas. I love a thesaurus that I can hold in my hand, and pages I can turn, because it’s about the discovery of something new. Originally, I’ll open up the book for one reason — because I want to look up “maelstrom,” for example — and yet “maelstrom” takes me to some other word that I want to look up the etymology of. So that’s why I write: Just for the love of language and what I can do with it.
Abby Holmes: 661-6390
1-26-2011 Wenatchee World newspaper interview by Abby Holmes:
Instructor Baugher interview:
We’ve all been there, sitting at our desks with what appears to be a brilliant piece of writing. As writers, we know when we’re onto something good. But getting to the finished product isn’t always as easy as it seems, and after poking and prodding a story or poem through multiple drafts, it’s easy to feel like giving up. “Maybe this wasn’t so brilliant after all,” we say, sullenly filing the work into our rejects pile.
But what if all it takes to polish those gems is a little dedication and playful mind? This Saturday in Janee Baugher’s At Play: Re-Envisioning Your Poems, you’ll learn how to sort through those drafts to unearth the finished piece of writing. Why let those words go to waste? Sign up for At Play (and other summer classes) by clicking here!
Sara Brickman: Tell me a little about how playfulness enters into the revision process.
Janee Baugher: When my revision students are busy at work, our classroom is reminiscent of a preschool classroom: cut-outs and slips of paper strewn about the table, students intently cutting with children’s safety scissors, the occasional waft of paste, color pencil markings that bleed from page to table, reference books plopped open, the teacher’s look of puzzlement. Writers play just as artists and musicians do; we get to have fun with words in a way that journalists and sign-makers can’t. I can’t think of any stage of writing that isn’t play. Amusement in revision comes from taking the time to really substantiate what you’ve done thus far. Like Amy Lowell says, “Revising is the act of consciously improving what has been unconsciously done.”
SB: What is the best part of sifting through multiple drafts of writing?
JB: Confidence-building. After you’ve labored on your poem so thoroughly that each word has been considered, each line break sings, the rhythm jives with its tone, the conceit has been resolved or not, then you as a writer arrive at a place of utter conviction. Ultimately, when it’s time to publicize the poem, you can feel riotously confident about your poem’s place in the world.
SB: How do we know when a piece of writing is finished?
JB: I don’t think we ever know. But for me, it’s not about completion, it’s about satisfaction. “A poem is never finished, only abandoned,” says Monsieur Paul Valéry. I guide my students to a place of complete knowing. Knowing your poem is different from understanding your poem. The techniques I advocate lead students to scrutinize their work as if through a telescope, an opera-glass and 3-D lenses until the students know their poems on a cellular level. Doubt, however, is the artist’s greatest adversary. Even the fiercely gifted painter Pierre Bonnard was purported to have sneaked into a museum in order to apply paint to one of his pieces. The damn thing was hanging on a museum wall, for God’s sake, and the man still had a nagging sense that it needed something else.
SB: When writing I frequently run up against two choices that I like for a specific line or moment. How do we decide which road to take, which choice is “better” or stronger?
JB: Great question. I have the answer that will change the way you approach revision forever… but you’ll have to come to class! (You didn’t think I’ve offer up all my trade-secrets on the Internet, did you?)
SB:What tools can students expect to gain in your class?
JB: My visual artist friend, Kip Deeds, once told me, “Art-making is decision-making.” What a benign little notion: we’re just making decisions. That’s it! On the other hand, many writers join workshops in the spirit of poem-completion before they’ve actually learned to articulate for themselves their poems’ strengths and weaknesses. My class can be seen as the pre-workshop option, or even the anti-workshop option. The goal is that my students leave my class feeling empowered.
Janée J. Baugher received an MFA from Eastern Washington University, and she’s been teaching creative writing for the past decade. Her collection of poems is “Coördinates of Yes” (Ahadada Books, 2010). She can be reached at JaneeJBaugher.wordpress.com.
Tipping Points: Voices from the Edge – KYRS radio (92.3.FM) Spokane, WA
On-air, live conversation with Paul Haeder
May 4, 2011 – 3-4pm
The Morning Show – KOHO news public radio at 101.1FM (Leavenworth, WA)
Radio interview conduct by Issac Kaplan-Woolner, Producer
January 24, 2011 – 6:50am, 8:50am, 12:20pm (Monday)
And, archived at:
Juneau Afternoons – KTOO news public radio at 104.3FM
Radio interview in Juneau, Alaska (interview conducted by Jeff Brown, Producer)
September 8, 2010 – 3:15-3:30pm AKST (Wednesday)
And, archived at:
[Get to the link and click on “Listen to Story.” Plays well on QuickTimePlayer]
Radio interview in Seattle, WA (interview conducted by Belle Randall, Curator)
Baugher MP3 Inertia Magazine: