For my sixth spotlight piece, trying to highlight others that inspire, I would like to share the poet, Rae Hoffman Jager.
I met Rae in college. I’m sure we had some creative writing classes together. Post school, no matter the job, she always continued writing. And publishing her poems. And taking hilarious photos of her dogs. I am so proud of her and her upcoming chapbook of poetry. I am inspired that poetry is still very much alive and well and funny, and that young people are still able carve out a path to write as a career.
May she inspire you to enjoy reading and writing again, too.
L: When and how did you start writing poetry?
R: I can safely say now (since I recently found a poem I wrote when I was 6 about a “hamstr name Lucy”) that I started writing much earlier than I originally thought. When, I’m not exactly certain, but I remember writing rhyming songs in my bedroom and recording them onto cassette tapes. I was a very prolific lyric writer at the time, creating volumes of stuff that filled up Lisa Frank notebooks by the dozens (stuff I’m sure would resonate with any 6-7 year old–what’s for dinner, why I have to go to grandma’s on the weekend, why my brother wouldn’t share his “hamstr,” and predicting what I would get for a Hanukkah present). I continued writing rhyming poetry for years–through middle school and even some of high school when I got my first poem published in the school’s magazine. In college I discovered Li-young Lee in a beginning poetry class. I was forever transformed by how good poetry could be.
L: Where can we read your poems?
R: You can read my poems on my website, where I link recent work to the online magazines they first appear in. Not all of my work is online, so you can also find links to buy the physical literary magazines I am in–if you’re into that kind of stuff. You should be.
You can also find some videos of me reading work on Youtube, but that might take you down a rabbit hole of old song covers, a dedication video to Poptarts, and more. I know you’re tempted now. So sorry.
L: What are you working on right now?
R: Oh, where to begin? I am wrapping up a chapbook that is going to be published by Five Oaks Press in late June/early July (check them out. Lynn Houston is the founder/editor, and she’s incredible and so dedicated to what she does). This small collection will house a lot of interesting poems featuring Krispy Kreme, Snoop Dog, Omaha, LARPING, and more.
Aside from that, I have started on a collection of football poems. I know what you might be thinking, “wait–what? You like football? Since when? how? Who will your audience be…….WHY?” The answer is really complicated. I am fascinated by football fans –their vocabulary, rituals, and interpretations. I want to understand and demonstrate just how complex the relationship is between fans, players, and owners. There’s so much more that I won’t get into. Long story short, I think I can honor both die-hard football fans and football haters. It’s a lofty goal. In defense of my own new dedication to football (which you might be suspicious of), I can say I wrote a poem about the Immaculate Reception. Doing so required extensive research. I watched three hours of footage from that 1972 game. THREE HOURS.
L: What’s something most people don’t know about you?
R: I really like making visual art too. I’m by no means a pro, but occasionally I’ll grab some colored pencils, chalk pastels, charcoal, and go to town on a brief project. Those normally end up on Instagram and sometimes Facebook, if they’re appropriate (sometimes they aren’t.) Some of my work has found its home on my website.
L: What inspires you?
R: So many things–contemporary art, walking, smelling, interacting with people I really care about and people I don’t know that well, collaborating, music, more walking, sitting under blooming or unblooming trees, eavesdropping on strangers, talking to kids, but most importantly walking. I admire Wordsworth for all the walking he did. Overall, I have a pretty child-like wonder and old-lady-like respect for the world and it’s infinite mystery.
L: What has been your most recent act of kindness that either you gave or received?
R: I started volunteering at this really great nonprofit called WORDPLAY. They help kids/teens in the nearby neighborhoods with literary afterschool and on weekends. If you have an extra twenty dollar bill lying around or you find a couple $5 bills in that old winter coat from two years ago, you should donate it to them.
L: April is National Poetry Month. How are you celebrating and who are you reading?
R: I am creating 2 vlogs to celebrate the first two weeks of poetry month, hosting a poetry book giveaway for week three, and a surprise for week four. The videos are supposed to be funny and mildly informative–geared towards teenagers and exposing them to poetry. I want young people to know that poetry doesn’t have to be boring or inaccessible, and that it doesn’t need rhyme or adhere to any meter. What these videos are actually turning into is a platform for my pug, Athena Beyonce, to meet the world. The poetry giveaway is an opportunity for one of my followers to win a collection of poems by a celebrated contemporary poet. What happens the last week of Poetry Month on my blog? You’ll just have to wait and find out!
Want to continue to see what Rae is up to? You can follow her website and check her out on social media:
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp5lptLT8_6N1qYxMPbVyoQ
Good Reads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/66160480-rae-hoffman-jager
And if you’re interested in supporting her work, you can pre-order her poetry chapbook One-Throne here.