Q&A; with Joan Hanna

Poet Joan Hanna

Q&A with Joan Hanna
Interview by Kaitlin Keller and Lori A. May

Joan Hanna was born and raised in Philadelphia and now lives in New Jersey with her husband, Craig and rescued Beagle, Odessa. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry and Creative Nonfiction from Ashland University. Joan is an Adjunct Professor of Creative Writing at Rowan University and also works as Assistant Managing Editor for River Teeth, A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative and Assistant Editor of Nonfiction and Poetry for r.kv.r.y. Quarterly Literary Journal. She is a former Managing Editor for Poets’ Quarterly.

Congrats on the publication of Threads. What can readers expect from this collection?

Threads is an autobiographical collection of poetry. Even though the stories are intensely personal there are many universal themes addressed as well. There are poems about everything from the struggles of mother-daughter relationships, explorations of domestic violence and also the redemption of discovering that everything that we experience, the good and the bad, helps to form the person we become. There are some very tender moments in the collection as well. I think all of these things become so interconnected within our lives as to become inseparable when we look back.

Threads is your first chapbook. Can you tell us one surprising thing you’ve learned about the poetry book publication process?

This whole process is so surreal. There have been emails passed back and forth and galleys corrected and mock-ups printed but it still somehow seems like just so much loose paper flying about until you actually hold the book in your hands. I had to really understand the idea of a publication timeline and just take each step in the process when it was time to take that step. This is not always an easy thing for an A-type personality like me.

How do you know when your work is “finished”?

I have this voice in the back of my head that says, “This is finished … for now.” And by that I mean that I take the poems as far as I can take them at this point in time. But there will always be that phrase, or word, or missed beat that I find and want to improve. I used to get frustrated by this, but now I see this as growth. If I look at a poem a year later and I have not learned a new craft technique or new perspective that I want to apply then I am not growing as a writer. So I see this as a positive thing now.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received about writing? Best advice you’ve ever given?

The best advice I’ve ever received was to be brave enough to put it all in. Everything. The pretty and the ugly. To take the whole thing deeper; and deeper still. Until I could get to the heart of what I was really trying to say, without fear. And then begin to write the poem.

The best advice I’ve ever given is to wait until you can write about something objectively, especially if you are culling from your own life, so that you can be as honest about the part you played in the scenario as you are about the characters you are exploring. Only then can you give your reader the well-rounded experience they deserve.

Kaitlin Keller will receive her MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University in June 2013. Her latest literary venture involves raising awareness of the “novel in verse”—a hybrid genre which blends elements of poetry and verse with the formulaic structure of fiction novels. She is also currently penning the sequel to her first manuscript, Siren. She is a fanatical music lover and karaoke singer. Never dwelling long enough to call one place home, she currently resides in Manlius, New York with her husband and her constant companion, Fizzgig, her faithful Shih Tzu.

Lori A. May is the Founding Editor of Poets’ Quarterly.