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Six Questions with Ann Bracken and Linda Joy Burke – April Wilde Readings

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Happy National Poetry Month! The Wilde Readings team is excited to invite you to an in person event at the Columbia Arts Center on Tuesday, April 12, 2022 at 7 pm. For the first time, Wilde Readings will feature its wonderfully dedicated hosts Ann Bracken, Linda Joy Burke, Faye McCray, and Laura Shovan. All are welcome! We encourage you to participate in the open mic. Please prepare no more than five minutes of performance time/two poems. Sign up in advance by calling the Columbia Arts Center (410-730-0075), or when you arrive. Light refreshments will be served. Books by both featured authors and open mic readers will be available for sale.

First up with their answers to our Six Questions are Ann Bracken and and Linda Joy Burke.

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

Ann: My parents show up frequently because I’m exploring their influence in my life as well as new things I’ve discovered about them. My ex-partners show up when I write poems that deal with positive and negative effects of those relationships.

Linda Joy: I’ve never really considered who shows up most in my writing, though now that I think about my body of work over the past 50 years, I believe the collective shows up the most. Of course like most young poets I showed up the most in the beginning, but then as losses occurred both in the body personal and the body politic the collective dominated.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Ann: I like to write at the desk in my office where I have a lot of inspirational artwork and quotations.

Linda Joy: Depends on the mood I’m in. When I was younger, pre-computer, I would write on large sketch books while sitting on the living room floor. Now I am often dictating into my gadget while walking or pacing around my house. I always wanted to be able to dictate stories or essays when I was younger, especially while I was driving, and even bought a little recorder for that, but transcribing was a whole other job that I didn’t ever have enough time to do for myself then. I love modern tech in this regard, because I think that there’s a certain level of urgency about writing in this stage of my “career”, that if I couldn’t dictate into my gadget, I’m afraid I would lose much of what bubbles around in my brain. My fingers don’t work quick enough sometimes, with either a pen or a keyboard. I know this question was intending to mean what setting as opposed to modality of writing – however I’m not attached to favorite places but more a state of mind or being.

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

Ann: I often use a timer to get me started when I feel like the well is dry. Other times I doodle shapes and colors to evoke the mood or experience I want to excavate. And occasionally I use Taylor Mali’s Metaphor Dice to help me when I feel stuck or need a fresh way to explore an experience.

Linda Joy: I clear my desk or wherever I may be working, so that there is a sense of spaciousness around me even if I am in a tiny space. Maybe I’ll go for a walk or do something physical like gardening to help clear my head. Then must have sustenance – snacks and a beverage coffee or tea, depending on the time of day or season. I keep my noise cancelling headphones close when my easily distracted meter reading is off the charts – and add instrumental music that feeds me to keep me in the zone.

Who always gets a first read?

Ann: My critique partner always gets a first read. She provides consistent and insightful feedback for me to consider when revising.

Linda Joy: There’s a poetry group that I belong to – who sees work I’ve done as a result of prompts from that group. Other than that I will send to one of my poet/writer colleagues (depending on topic, genre, intent and our history).

What is a book you’ve read more than twice (and would read again)?

Ann: I’ve read Jane Eyre three times, but don’t think I’d read again. I’ve read The Grapes of Wrath twice and was just thinking about re-reading this summer. I’ve read Rumi’s poetry many times and will continue to find beauty in his lines.

Linda Joy: As a kid I usually had to read one or two books over between library visits, because I was a fast reader. I remember reading books like Old Yeller, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the Henry Higgins books by Beverly Cleary multiple times, and then later, Oliver Twist, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Wuthering Heights, lots of Poe, and others of those books that kids from the 60’s and 70’s read. There have been a couple of staples over the years though, like The 4 Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and Lucille Clifton’s the Book of Light. There are numerous books I want to read again through a 21st century, wiser set of eyes, such as Angelou’s memoirs, Baldwin’s novels as well as a few of the dystopian novels that a younger me read while my idealism was still intact, like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. But, I’d need a clone so that notion is off the table.

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

Ann: I heard Natasha Trethewey read in an intimate gathering at the University of Maryland. There were fewer than 50 people there, so we had the chance to ask her about her poems and to engage in wonderful discussions about her work. She was both welcoming and encouraging to all those present.

Linda Joy: All of them, but the poet Sekou Sundiata’s reading here in Columbia during one of the Columbia Festival of the Arts/HoCoPoLitSo sponsored readings stands out. I still listen to his work often and wonder what he would have written about these past 5-6 years if he were still here.

About our Authors

Ann Bracken has published three poetry collections, The Altar of Innocence, No Barking in the Hallways: Poems from the Classroom and Once You’re Inside: Poetry Exploring Incarceration. Ann’s memoir, Crash: A Memoir of Overmedication and Recovery, will be published in the fall of 2022. She serves as a contributing editor for Little Patuxent Review, and co-facilitates the Wilde Readings Poetry Series in Columbia, Maryland. She volunteers as a correspondent for the Justice Arts Coalition, exchanging letters with incarcerated people to foster their use of the arts. Her poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, her work has been featured on Best American Poetry, and she’s been a guest on Grace Cavalieri’s The Poet and The Poem radio show. Her advocacy work promotes using the arts to foster paradigm change in the areas of emotional wellness, education, and prison abolition.

Linda Joy Burke is a 2020 Howie recipient for Outstanding Artist, and her poetry has appeared in numerous publications or recordings, including 2020-2021 season of the Poet and The Poem with Maryland Poet Laureate Grace Cavalieri, Fledgling Rag, featured on the Poetry/Photography site, Beltway Magazine at  and more. Find her on Tumblr, Moods Minds & Multitudes on Blogspot, The Bird Talks Blog on Blogspot, and on Instagram @birdpoet. and other cyber-outlets.


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