We are happy to welcome LitMore member Ann Bracken today. Becoming a LitMore member is easy. Just click here http://litmore.org/join/ for more information and all the perks of joining Baltimore’s center for literary arts.
Ann Bracken’s memoir in verse, The Altar of Innocence, was released in 2015 by New Academia Publishing. Her poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared in anthologies and journals, including Little Patuxent Review, New Verse News, Scribble, Reckless Writing Anthology: Emerging Poets of the 21st Century, and Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence. Ann serves as a contributing editor for Little Patuxent Review, lectures at the University of Maryland College Park, and leads workshops at creativity conferences.
When did you first suspect you may be a writer?
Back in the 90s, I decided to explore freelance writing and worked with a mentor for a year. Because of my experiences as a teacher and as a parent involved in PTA, I was very concerned about the commercialization of public education. At that time, commercialization took the form of a venture called Channel One. Schools were given free TVs in exchange for mandating that the students watch a ten minute news program with two minutes of commercials. I was incensed by the idea and wrote a long article—it never got published, but I had the benefit of working with a seasoned mentor and that experience launched me into writing more seriously.
If your best writing was edible, what meal would it be?
A gourmet dinner of fresh fish, seasonal veggies, home-baked Artisian bread and fabulous wine.
What is the most unconventional thing you ever did for a piece you were working on?
When I want to revise a poem and I am stuck for good ideas, I pick ten words out of a hat and then see how I can work them into the poem. This technique never fails to give me a fresh take on my work.
What inspires you to start a poem?
A lot of times I am drawn to write a poem by incidents in the news or situations where I can’t speak out directly—usually job-related. I find that using the genre of poetry offers a new insight both for myself and for any readers encountering my work.
How do you know when you are finished with a poem?
I never feel quite finished. Every time I look at a poem of mine, I see something I would like to change. But I stop working on a poem when I read it out loud and can feel the words singing back to me.
What writer are you particularly influenced by and why?
Just one? I have so many influences—Grace Cavalieri for her honesty and clarity of language. Mary Oliver for her beautiful nature imagery. Marie Howe for her emotional portrayal of family issues. David Whyte for his keen insights into the inner journeys we make. John O’Donohue for his wonderful musicality and playful spirit.
What objects do you keep close to your writing space?
I have a notebook at all times and I like to use colored pencils to doodle when I am stuck for new ideas.
What do you consider your greatest success as a writer, how do you define success?
I define success as staying on the path and working on new projects. I define success as reaching out and helping others along the way as others have helped me so generously over the years. I try to have an open-hand policy—with an open hand, you can give and receive.
How do you use LitMore?
I have attended readings, given a class, and I have done a reading with Barbara Morrison. Barbara and I will be offering a workshop on poetry and memoir at LitMore on Sunday, October 18th.
What is your best line ever written at LitMore and/or a favorite LitMore moment so far?
I haven’t written any lines at LitMore, and I would say the opening celebration where we dressed in costume and performed in a play were my favorite moments. I love costumes and had fun putting mine together as Edna St. Vincent Millay. I always loved her lines about the candle from her poem “First Fig,” which appeared in Poetry in 1918:
“My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!”
Ann will be reading from The Altar of Innocence with Barbara Morrison on Saturday 22 August at 1 pm at the Roland Park branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.