Interview With Jeanann Verlee

I’ve kept a notebook at my side my entire life.

What advice do you wish you had gotten as a teen?

       Kindness is an important virtue, but not so noble that you should sacrifice yourself in the giving of it.

Tell us about a time when you were brave, or bravery was required of you, or you saw someone else being brave.

       The bravest I’ve had to be was a night when I was fifteen and had to face down my then-boyfriend who had cornered me holding a knife against my throat, threatening to kill me. I was in shock and had no idea how to get myself out of the situation. After a terrifying period of listening to his threats, I ultimately did the most illogical thing: I laughed at him. I told him he didn’t have the courage to go through with it, that he was too weak. He broke down into tears, crumbled to his knees. I fled to the basement and locked the door. I spent many of the next several years dealing with the legal fallout of the incident and navigating his stalking, but I survived that night because I gathered every piece of courage I could find and pushed back. It certainly isn’t an advisable roadmap to follow, but it was the thing that worked in that one particular moment with that one particular person.

How do you start a poem? Give us a window into your process.

       My process varies. Some days, I am consumed with an issue, concept, or feeling and I cannot help but dive in and write it all out – the poem coming in one furious breath, each word racing the others to make it to the page. Others come more slowly, over months and years, as my perspective changes on a given circumstance – coming slow and calculated, one painstaking line at a time.

What is your motto for getting through the tough times?

       "Show me a day when the world wasn't new." Sister Barbara Hance (I have this quote posted in various places in my home. It keeps me kicking.)