Poet Jane Ulrich

In celebration of National Poetry Month, members of the Guilford Poets Guild were invited to share their thoughts about poetry and the life of a poet. Here’s what poet Jane Ulrich had to say:

How did you come to being a poet?
I don’t remember not being a poet. But I do remember feeling absolute rage over not being able to use words to express myself.

Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
Probably not. But I do remember a poem I wrote in my handmade birthday card for my Dad when I was maybe 5 or 6.

You can look through all the windows
You can open all the doors
But you’ll never find another father
With a head that shines like yours

He was bald. Obviously. And I was a smart ass.

What else do you write besides poetry?
I like essays, mainly because I never have more than twelve pages to say about anything. I also ghost write, which is interesting, trying to be someone else….and have written Department of Education grant proposals for small colleges. I did not like writing them. They demand the use of words that do not belong in the English language. Thankfully I no longer remember any of them. I threw them right into my vault of oblivion.

Do you have other creative pursuits
Yes. Keeping a sane mind.

What has been the defining moment in your life as a poet/writer?
Too many to count. But the simplest one has been the most useful — Ray Nelson, my poetry professor at UVA, once told me to move my last paragraph in the paper to the very beginning. Say what I have to say right off, and get rid of the useless preamble.. It fundamentally changed the way I write, and the way I think about writing. Thank you Prof Nelson!!!

How long have you been a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and what’s that like?
Honestly I do not know. A long time. I love them, they are weird and wonderful. They make me feel at home.

What inspires your writing today?
Usually desperation. I start with that and sometimes it turns into joy. Sometimes I just want to throw the computer against the wall.

Describe your poem-writing process.
I write a long free form stream of consciousness and then ruthlessly edit. Sometimes I get a few lines or group of words or one word that leads me into an actual poem. Sometimes not. It is a crap shoot.

Where do you like to write? With what?
Kitchen table. Computer. Glass of wine/coffee. Mostly coffee. And more coffee.

Who are you favorite poets and authors?
This changes with the wind. But I have always loved T.S. Eliot, One of my favorite lines, which I repeat endlessly. is “But to what purpose/ Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves/ I do not know”. I also love Charles Simic’s line “And I piss in the sink with a feeling of eternity,” and one from a medieval poet I can never remember “As light as the leaf on a linden tree.” BEAUTIFUL. Maybe the most beautiful line in the English language.

What book are you currently reading? (poetry or not)
Not.

Poem in Your Pocket Day is celebrated during National Poetry Month in April. What’s your favorite poem to carry about or share with others?
“Jabberwocky.” So much fun to play with, especially out loud. Very loud. My son Bruno taunts me with the first line, and my poetic OCD forces me to then recite the entire poem. He finds this very funny.

Any last words?
Edit edit edit. Rewrite again. Edit. Rewrite.


Poet Jane Ulrich says “For those of us who do not live on the big stage, change happens in the small moments, and that is what I write about. The larger details of my life are irrelevant.”


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