Poet Jean Valentine Creates a New World with Words

in Arts/Bryn Mawr by

By Alicia Ramirez

Staff Writer

“Art is made from language and it describes a whole new world, art makes a sanctuary,” said poet and Bryn Mawr College Creative Writing professor J.C. Todd.

Indeed it does. As the second writer to grace Bryn Mawr’s Creative Writing Program Reading Series, poet Jean Valentine transformed Goodhart Auditorium’­s Music Room into a haven for longtime followers and curious literary lovers.

Through the duration of Valentine’s reading, students, professors, and residents of the Bryn Mawr area enjoyed poems from her latest book “Break The Glass,” as well as some of her previous works.

One of the most attention-grabbing poems Valentine read was  “Lucy”, a 14-part poem that pays tribute to a skeleton named Lucy, which was found in Ethiopia in 1974. The poem also references the Bible, Chekov and various artists.

When Valentine opened the floor to questioning, she was asked why her latest collection was titled “Break The Glass.”

“Don’t you just sometimes want to break the glass?” Valentine said. “The image was the breaking of a window, the feeling of illness, claustrophobia and not being able to get out.”

While themes of exile and loss recur throughout her poetry, Valentine admits that she is not sure where they came from. Growing up in middle class America, Valentine did not experience the hardship she expresses in her writing.

“I have a lot of feeling for people who are in exile,” Valentine said.

Evidently, Valentine’s poetry resonated for her Bryn Mawr fans, who were eager to transport themselves to whatever world Valentine created with words.

Valentine has won a number of awards for her work, such as the National Book Award for Poetry and the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets. She has also taught at New York University, Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College.

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