Jane Satterfield was recently appointed Literary Editor of the Journal of Association for Research on Mothering. Her new book, Daughters of Empire: A Memoir of a Year in Britain and Beyond, was published by Demeter Press (York University, Toronto) in May 2009. Satterfield was a poetry fellow last summer at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts; new poetry has or will appear in Court Green, Hawaii Pacific Review, and Pleiades.
In an interview with the late Studs Terkel, the legendary documentarian of American life, essayist and novelist James Baldwin noted that,
Art has to be a kind of confession. I don't mean a true confession in the sense of that dreary magazine. The effort it seems to me, is: if you can examine and face your life, you can discover the terms with which you are connected to other lives, and they can discover them, too — the terms with which they are connected to other people.
A writer’s workshop—grounded in critical reading, discussion, and close editing—is the perfect setting in which to explore such connections. It’s a highly interactive space which provides an opportunity to “claim” rather than “receive” an education: a difference of “acting” rather than being “acted upon,” as poet Adrienne Rich once advised students, insights particularly relevant to apprentice writers learning the craft of writing within the context of a Jesuit tradition.
As a poet and essayist, I believe in the power of these artistic forms to pay witness to the political, social, and ethical crises of contemporary times; I ask students to bring the same scrutiny to their lives that they bring to the work of established writers and to set down—in language as fresh and vivid as possible—the truth of their experience.
Though the workshop’s short-term effects are many (better thinking, better writing), its life may be long—in the words of South African poet Breytan Breytanbach,
. . . a venue where readings and discussions take place regularly will become imbued with the patina, the sacred spirit, of creativity . . . and what you have as a result is this space of many voices where, if you close your eyes, you may still hear the rustle of arguments, and the shaping of imagination to clarify commitment.
Learn more about my classes.
Curriculum Vitae (pdf format)