Jan Beatty, award-winning poet, professor, and noted leather jacket wearer, will be speaking and reading poetry next Thursday at McDaniel College’s B. Chrisopher Bothe Memorial Lecture, which each year brings poets, included multiple Pulitzer winners, and other strong voices to McDaniel.
Beatty, the winner of the 2018 Paterson Poetry Prize, is the author of five books. She directs the creative writing master of fine arts program at Carlow University in Pittsburgh and leads the Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops there. On the radio, she is the host of “Prosody” on WESA 90.5 FM.
The Bothe lecture and reading will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the McDaniel Lounge on campus, 2 College Hill, Westminster.
Beatty said she usually decides in the day or two before a reading which works to include.
“I tend to avoid overly structuring it because that’s just not my nature,” she said.
Her latest book “Jackknife: New and Selected Poems,” is part retrospective. This gives her a lot of room to move around, she said.
When compiling and writing for “Jackknife,” it was a challenge.
“It took a while, and then I showed my choices to some readers I respect and they totally disagreed with my choices,” she said with a laugh. “[It] still proves that you're not really a good judge of your own work. You need other people to tell you what the hell you're doing.”
She listened to a lot of what her initial readers said, but not everything.
“There were some I just really needed to have in the book for my own sanity, or because I had certain connection to it,” she said.
“I've been pushing really hard not to repeat myself, not to do the same thing,” she said. In looking back, “I felt like that was true. So, I’m glad to have had the opportunity to do it.”
Alongside the Bothe Lecture, which is open to the public, Beatty will spend time with writing students in the classroom on Thursday with Kathy Mangan, professor of English and Joan Develin Coley Chair in Creative Expression and the Arts at McDaniel.
“I think my students are going to be a little bit awed — in a good way,” Mangan said. “This might blow the doors out once they see Jan.”
As a teacher of creative writing for more than 20 years, Beatty said undergraduates are some of her favorites to work with.
“People are in that mode where they feel like they can do anything, and they're indestructible. I mean, there's a lot of possibility there,” she said. “It's a privilege to go in and talk to them and see what they're up to, you know, what they're thinking about.”
That energy isn’t restricted to age. She teaches workshops with women aged 19 to 85 in the Madwomen in the Attic Writing Workshops, which bring in community and undergraduate writers.
Mangan thinks her students will be equally impressed by Beatty. She first met Beatty at a reading in Baltimore and described her as “looking like she just jumped off a motorcycle.” They bonded over their shared connections to Pittsburgh. Mangan brought home several of Beatty’s books, and Beatty agreed to be part of the Bothe Lecture series a little while later.
Mangan hopes her students will find an examples of the concepts she tries to teach within Beatty’s work.
“Concretion, concretion, concretion,” she said. “Poems really work on specificity.”
“She certainly doesn’t hold anything back,” Mangan said of Beatty’s work. “I think they’re gong to see how she uses concretion to powerful effect.”
Beatty said her advice for writers in the community is: “I think they should do what they want above all. I mean, if you're interested in writing, you’ve got to read everything you can. But I'm also a big advocate of women's writing, and saying, what you want to say, in your poetry.
“Rather than dressing it up in a way that makes everything opaque, I think, you know, life is short, and you need to say what you need to say,” she said. “I’m really interested in helping women do that.”