Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Muse: 2012 Texas Poet Laureate

Life-long Texan Jan Epton Seale has been appointed 2012 Poet Laureate of Texas, succeeding David M. Parsons (2011) and Karl K. Morton (2010). She will serve, as stipulated by law, for one year. Her year begins officially on May 27, 2012. The position has no requirements. Seale has indicated in interviews that she plans to travel the state making presentations, encouraging arts participation, collaborating with other Texas State Artists, and giving readings. 

Background about the state Poet Laureate position is included in my June 2010 post on Morton.

* * * * *
. . . it's not exactly a close runner-up with World Peace 
but, surprisingly, it's one of the things that has been so
 enduring that it might be seen as a cultural mainstay
 against chaos and insanity.
~ Jan Epton Seale
(Responding to a Question of Where Poetry Fits In*)

McAllen, Texas, resident Jan Epton Seale is a poet, award-winning short fiction writer, essayist, children's book author, and playwright. Her most recent collections of poetry are Nape (Ink Brush Press, 2011), The Wonder Is: New and Selected Poems 1974-2004 (Panther Creek Press, 2005; 2nd Ed., Ink Brush Press, Fall 2011), and Valley Ark: Life Along the Rio (The Knowing Press, 2005), a collection of 50 poems by Seale and photographs of flora and fauna of the lower Rio Grande Valley by Ansen Seale.

Seale's earlier collections of poetry, including The Yin of It (Pecan Grove Press, 2000), a chapbook, Sharing the House (out of print; RiverSedge Poetry Series, University of Texas-Pan American Press, 1982), and Bonds (University of Texas-Pan American Press, 1981), are available through their publishers or various used book dealers or re-sellers.  She also is a co-editor of Texas Poets in Concert: A Quartet (Texas Poets Series, University of North Texas Press, 2000).

We often think of poetry as just words. It's actually a way of being,
a way of looking at the world. A poet is a philosopher.
The manifestation of that are the words.**

Themes and subjects common to Seale's poetry include family, women's lives, aging and the wisdom of elders, spirituality, culture, the environment/natural world, creativity, and humor. She is admired for her sharp observations, honesty, and accessibility.

Among her poems I have read, this one is a favorite, revealing her wit, clarity, understanding of women's issues, and ability to tell a story through poetry:

She had to leave her deer
in the underground parking,
check her bow at the door.
Her turn came before she could
put the touch on a woman in labor
or advise a virgin or two.
How did she want to pay? Pay?
Her father had influence.
She donned her gown right over left
and left over nothing.
After they took off her armband,
they asked the date of her period.
She said Pre-history to Golden Age.
The plexiglass flattened
her breast like a discus.
"Ouch!" she said in Greek.
"Hold your breath, miss."
Finished, Lady Wild Things
dropped her toga to one shoulder,
fetched her bow and quiver,
exited in long strides.
her little dog waited
by the elevator.
~ "Diana the Huntress Goes for her Mammogram"

Seale's work has been published in numerous literary journals, magazines, and newspapers, among them Artworld QuarterlyBlue Mesa Review, Chicago TribuneDescant, Iron Horse Literary ReviewKalliopeNative Soil, New Mexico Humanities Review, Newsday, Prairie PoetryTexas Monthly, Texas Poetry CalendarThe Chicago TribuneThe Yale Review, Your Daily Poem, and Writer's Digest, and has been anthologized widely. It also has been broadcast on National Public Radio's "Theme and Variations" program.

In addition to a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry, Seale has received awards from the Poetry Society of Texas (Kathryn Morris Memorial Award, 1970) and New York Poetry Forum (Bill Burke Award and Dolly Sprunk Memorial Award, 1976 and 1977), and has been a Texas Artist-in-Education. She also has served on arts panels for the Texas Commission on the Arts, Texas Institute of Letters (she is a member), and Humanities Texas (Speakers' Bureau+).

Former South Texas editor of the quarterly Texas Books in Review, Seale also was founding editor of RiverSedge, a literary journal. She has taught English and creative writing at the university level, and currently conducts local, state, and national workshops in creative and memoir writing. She is a 2011 juror for ARTLines: An Ekphrastic Poetry Competition, organized by Public Poetry in collaboration with the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.


All poetry excerpts © Jan Epton Seale

* Quoted in Your Poem Daily Interview, October 2011 Poet of the Month

** Quoted in Chris Ardis, "Jan Seale: A Lifetime of Poetry", Your Valley Voice, June 14, 2011

+ Seale's presentations include "Passing the Light: How Elderwisdom Shapes the Future of Families", described here.

Texas House Resolution No. 59 (Legislative Appointment to Poet Laureate Position)

Jan Seale's Poems Online: "Believing Is Seeing", "Braving the Atlantic", "Big Bird Comes to the Valley in 1976", "Diana the Huntress Goes for her Mammogram", "Southern Anomalies" and "How the Grandmother of the World Will Entertain Herself", All at Jan Seale; "In the Guest House", "How the Grandmother of the World Will Entertain Herself", "Diana the Huntress Goes for her Mammogram", "Riff", "Matins, Still Dark", "Bookmark", and "Crone Texture", All at Amersand Poetry Journal (Sol Magazine Projects); "Stretch" at Electica; "Touring a Well-Seasoned Woman" at Pecan Grove Press; "Dealing in Futures" at Poet on Poetry; "The Valley of Flocks" at Your Valley Voice; "Getting in Touch with Mother", "I Cut Open a Papaya, My Husband Reads His UFO Journal", "The Makeup Poem", "We Are Summer", and "The Golden Rain Tree", All at Your Daily Poem. Seale's poem "A Collared Peccary by any other name", from Valley Ark, appears in Javelinas by Jane Manaster (Texas Tech University Press) [see GoogleBooks]. Seale's "The Makeup Poem" appeared in the anthology I Am Becoming the Women I've Wanted (Papier-Mache Press, 1994). The poem "Diana the Huntress Goes for her Mammogram" was published in the anthology Inheritance of Light: Contemporary Poetry (University of North Texas Press, 1996).

Profiles of Jan Seale: Travis M. Whitehead, "Valleyite Jan Seale Named Texas Poet Laureate", Brownsville Herald, May 17, 2011; and "Texas Poet Laureate Has Kind Words for Craft", The Monitor, May 18, 2011

Interviews with Jan Seale: Poet on Poetry (Poet of the Week), Story Circle Book Reviews, and Your Daily Poem (October 2011)

Linda Kornasky Review of The Wonder Is in Journal of Texas Women Writers, Vol. 1.1, Spring 2009 (pdf)

Jan Seale on FaceBook

Description of Position in The Handbook of Texas Online at Texas State Historical Association 


Louise Gallagher said...

I love the idea that poetry is a way of seeing the world. That poets are philosophers.


S. Etole said...

Her poem an apt description!

Michael Ann said...

Thanks for highlighting this poet and explaining what a Poet Laureate is about. I always wondered! Love hat poem.