Jan Epton Seale is Texas Poet Laureate for 2012-2013. This essentially means that she is the ambassador for and promoter of poetry in the Lone Star State, according to www.tsl.state.tx. As such, she promotes the art of poetry as she travels and attends poetry events. During National Poetry Month, she made her way to the capital of Texas. She and other featured poets shared their creativity with an audience at Bullock Texas State History Museum in downtown Austin on April 25. She referenced the place as prestigious and wonderful. She also referred to the other poets as sister poets, and said they make their poems for listeners and appreciators of poems. Information about her selections, her answers to panel questions, and a private conversation I had with her are included below.
Her selected poems for the evening included one called “Lightening Bugs, Fireflies and Glow Worms” and another titled, “Sisters in the Pool.” Her other selections were noteworthy and generated audience response.
Seale also participated in a Q&A after the reading. During this segment she shared her method for writing poetry. As she explained it, she starts by writing small things down; sort of like random thoughts. She said she then expands on those later when she has time and notices that a fluid poetry flow is running.
She also said sometimes she sits down to deliberately write poetry, and sometimes it just comes to her unbidden. She said she thought Texas was a great place to be a poet. “It’s certainly wonderful to be a Texas artist, and I have no qualms about it,” she told the audience. One truism that she shared is that one shouldn’t yearn to write about something that’s not in them, but to practice using what does come to them.
After the event, she mingled with the crowd of visitors and talked with the many poetry appreciators and personal fans in the lobby. I caught up with her and she shared some of her early poetry imprinting.
When we exchanged cards, I found that Seale’s business card features the State of Texas with an Monte Blanc pen fused to the top. She told me that her grandfather collected poems from newspapers, since poetry books were not as popular during his day. She also said her dad used to quote poetry to her mother from the kitchen doorway while she cooked. She shared that he also used poems in his Sunday pulpit sermons.
As she recalled it, she has been writing poems since she was 6. She explained that she didn’t always know about iambic pentameters, which is the meters of verses in poetry. However, she said she had a sense about the rightness of her poems. She told me that she rocked her head from side-to-side to get the rhythm going in her poems. “I knew when it worked and when it didn’t,” she explained.
She said that the opportunity to represent poetry for her state is wonderful. “It’s such an honor,” she added. However, she indicated that she represents hundreds of great poets in Texas; and does not consider herself to be the best poet in the state.
On the Library of Congress website, it indicates that an official poet laureate has to be designated such by a governor’s proclamation, by legislative action; or a combination of the two. The site also indicates that sometimes a poet’s body of work (especially about their state) is considered as well as any honors and recognition they’ve received for their poems. One other consideration mentioned on the site is the candidate’s ability to represent their state.
During the event it was mentioned that Seale has published 8 volumes of poetry through Ink Brush Press. While reading some of her creative work she mentioned some of the challenges of perfecting a waffle in the unusual shape of Texas. This drew some laughter from an audience who seemed to appreciate patriotic references.
Whether she’s the best in the state or not, it is no minor accomplishment that she is in this position. By any measure, she seems to wear the hat very well.
Also by Shirley
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