Jennifer Zilm

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What genre are you in?


What inspired the piece you submitted to emerge?

I submitted a few pieces. Some are from the collection I have been working on while at TWS which is called Waiting Room: Appointment Poems. The book explores academia, mental health and addictions work, therapy, dental appointments and other semi-formal types of intimacy. So the poems I have included are inspired by some of those things.

During my time at TWS I have also embarked on a reading project with the goal of reading one hundred books of poetry in one year. Several of the poems I submitted make reference to these poets and the books I have been reading. Other poems are usually my main inspiration.

I have tried to include poems that have some constraint to them: one is a resemblance form sonnet, one is derived from a chance procedure and one had a predetermined list of words that had to be incorporated in the poem.

Where can we read more of your stuff?

I have published poems in Vallum: Contemporary Poetry (also online), Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine, Room Magazine and in revisions/revisiting: Echolocation 2012 Poetry Contest Finalists (also online). This summer I have work coming out in Prism International, The Antigonish Review and SB Quarterly. My poems can also be found on the website of Arc Poetry Magazine on the 2013 Poem of the Year Contest Shortlist.

I spent many years doing graduate work in Early Judaism and Early Christianity. I have published some academic articles, one in Women in Judaism: a Multi-Disciplinary Journal (2008; online) and one in a collected volume called Poetry and Prayer in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Brill: 2012).

I also published some book reviews and encyclopedia entries. For a good time check out my review of Art and Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Towards a New Jewish Archaeology online at Shift: Journal of Visual and Material Culture. For an even better time, go read that book!

How has your writing process changed since starting TWS?

It makes me sound like a mystic to talk about it, which is fine. I have learned a lot about my process. I realized through Betsy Warland’s “RPMs of Writing Class” that I have always thrived working in “contested space.” Thus, I feel comfortable writing when I am “trapped”- travelling or commuting (or in the back of a classroom). As long as I have a notebook and I pen I feel like I am always writing, or getting ready to write. Then I can pile up my notebooks beside my scratched wing chair in my living room and begin putting things together.

I have realized the similarity between visual collage and poetry. I am aware of letting myself be influenced, both by the books I read and the poems I hear in workshop. There is something very holy about in sitting in a circle with other writers and hearing the way you’ve influenced them and then also recognizing the way they’ve influenced you. This beautiful reciprocal gift economy.

I am doing things in my writing that I never thought I would do because of the grace, elegance and bravery manifested in the writing of my fellow poetry students. Within our group, I feel there is an amazing dynamic that has been fostered by our mentor Jen Currin. Jen also has an uncanny ability to figure exactly which poets I should be reading. There has been discussion among the poetry group that we might get t-shirts made up that say “What have you done for the sentence lately?”


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