Startled by JOY 2019: Meet Donna Isaac

Dear Readers...

When I'm not writing, I'm involved in a multitude of other projects, foremost among them 
  • Books and Brews, in which Michael Agnew (Minnesota's first beer cicerone) and I interview local authors as Michael pairs craft brews to their reading and....
  • editing Gabriel's Horn's annual poetry anthology.
This year was our maiden voyage, with the theme of JOY. Our goal is to provide a paying market for poets writing in traditional and classical forms. I was delighted with the quality of poets who responded, with their impressive credentials and backgrounds and am very proud to feature THOMAS R. SMITH and DAN BLUM, two very accomplished wordsmiths. We have a number of poets from the Twin Cities, but also from around the United States, from Canada, and from the United Kingdom. I look forward to having even more countries represented next year. If you're a poet and would like to submit, please visit our submission page.

OUR FIRST EVENT … will be 

  • July 7, 2017 at 

  • Next Chapter Books, 38 South Snelling, Saint Paul, MN,  

  • 2 to 3:30. 

  • Wine, beverages, hors d'ourves and readings from several of our poets!

And so, as we launch Startled by JOY: 2019, I begin a series of interviews with several of the twenty-nine poets. I have enjoyed getting to know more about these people who are part of this wonderful anthology. As a writer and some-time poet myself, it is an inspiration to get to know them better. Today, please welcome:

Donna Isaac

--Give us a brief background of your life:

new american poetry, new poetry in classical forms, traditional poetry, poetry anthology, donna isaac, american poets
I was born an Air Force brat at Fort Selfridge Air Force Base in Michigan, raised in about 15 cities/towns in Virginia, primarily in the Shenandoah Valley, and also lived in Johnson City, Tennessee and Greensboro, North Carolina before moving to the Twin Cities, MN where I've been over 30 years. My father was a Virginian and my mother, a Minnesotan. I grew up with my paternal family so am drawn to their culture and ways. I hold a B.A. (English) from James Madison University (Virginia); an M.A. (English) from the University of Minnesota; and an M.F.A. in writing from Hamline University (Minnesota). I have a husband and a big extended family. I taught English and writing for 40 years on the secondary and college levels and still teach classes, retiring from full-time education in 2016.

--What first drew you to poetry? Was there a defining moment, poem, or poet?
As a little kid, my mother told me I went around reciting nursery rhymes and loved the sound of words. In junior high it was not a poet, but language that drew me in as in James Hurst's short story, "The Scarlet Ibis" which is chockful of poetic language and sensibility. I was hooked when I read, "The ibis lit in the bleeding tree." In high school and college, I was drawn to the Romantic poets, British and American, and to imagists like T.S. Eliot.

--Who are your favorite poets?
I have a lot, but if narrowed down, in no particular order: T.S. Eliot, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Rita Dove, Lucille Clifton, Tony Hoagland, Wendell Berry, James Still, Jane Hirshfield, the Romantics, the Fugitive Poets, the Imagists, and many Minnesota poets.

--Do you or have you studied the craft of poetry and if so, how?
In 2007, I received my MFA in writing with a concentration in poetry at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN. My capstone thesis, entitled Sustenance, received Outstanding Poetry Thesis. Teachers such as Deborah Keenan, Jim Moore, Larry Sutphin, Patricia Francisco Weaver, Margot Galt, and others were so inspiring!

--Do you make a daily practice of writing poetry?
Every Wednesday and/or Thursday morning, I dedicate about three uninterrupted hours to my work somewhere outside of my home--lately, a local library. Otherwise, I tend to write daily but not on any schedule.

--Tell us something about your process of writing poetry—what sparks an idea, how do you begin, how much editing and re-writing, etc.
I get my ideas from reading, taking walks, daydreaming, hearing language, nature, travel, daily life and encounters--everywhere! If I remember to do this, I write ideas, lines, phrases, images down in a notebook and start there. I'm constantly resurrecting poetry and revising it.

--Are there two or three themes a reader might tend to find running through your poetry? What draws you to these themes?
I would say these three themes are pretty constant: the natural world, food, and ironies. The draw is the diversity, beauty, terror, wonder, sublimity found in nature and landscapes; my enjoyment of food as love and of cooking; and the quirkiness of life, its mysteries, its journeys into realms beyond those of the earth, its people, its "gifts and free surprises" to quote Annie Dillard.

--What are your hopes or goals for your poetry and/or writing life?
Like Stan in your recent interview, it would be nice to make some money on my work especially as I am a 40-year retired professor and could use some pocket change! But, I also just wallow in the stuff by belonging to poetry organizations, by hosting local readings, by continuing to write and hoping to be published, and by promoting other poets and poetry. I'd like to write at least one book that is read by a wider American and/or international audience and that gets warm reviews. As Hallie Berry recognized, it's nice to be liked for your art.

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The Battle is O'er is now available!
Start from the beginning: Prelude One 
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