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Jane Hoogestraat’s pieces “At the Edge of a Time Zone” and “The Scholar From Inner Mongolia Visits Missouri” appear in Midwestern Gothic Issue 4, out now.
How long have you been writing?
I started being serious about writing poetry in my early twenties. But I’m the product of a wonderful public school system (in South Dakota) and a hyper-literate family, so the origins of my interests in writing and literature probably started much earlier.
What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I was born in eastern South Dakota, and educated at Baylor (in Texas) and at the University of Chicago. For the last couple of decades, I’ve lived and worked in southern Missouri, a corner of the world that is a rich and strange crossing between the Midwest and the South, technically named the “Upland South.”
How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
While I’ve spent my entire life in the Central Time Zone, I’ve had the gift of experiencing, in a lasting way, four very different places and cultures. I hope my poetry, at least in a small way, repays that gift, or rings true to the places I’ve lived. The challenge for writers is to be loyal to particulars of place and experience, including ways of speaking, but also to be critical, and self-critical, of blind spots and imperfections within a given place. I try to do that in a humorous way in “The Scholar from Inner Mongolia Visits Missouri.”
Why do you believe there has never really been a regionalist push for Midwestern writing in the past like there has with the South or even the West Coast?
I worry that the bias against Midwestern writing may be more apparent than real, and might result in a self-fulfilling prophecy where writers from the middle of the country feel a sense of exclusion or alienation that is really unnecessary. For the last three summers, I’ve attended writers’ conferences where the majority of writers were from the Northeast but seemed genuinely interested in reading work from other cultural and geographical landscapes. The experience also taught me the need to articulate features of landscape that I take as given. For example, somewhere Kathleen Norris has written that you need to be very careful when you write about the landscape of western South Dakota because so few people in the world will ever see it. I thought about her words a lot when I was working on “At the Edge of a Time Zone.”
How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
I’ve discovered that writers tend to like Facebook, and perhaps use it differently than others. Midwestern Gothic caught my attention because a former student posted a link to it, for which I’m obviously grateful. Within reason, Facebook is a wonderful forum to discover glimpses of the intellectual and artistic worlds of other writers. And I usually post a note when I have good news about poetry. At the same time, I’ve been extremely stingy with “friend requests” and as a result have only 23 friends, all of whom I’ve met personally.
I have trouble selecting just one, so I’ll list (in order) six books of poems, a book about theology, and a novel: Ranier Marie Rilke, Duino Elegies; Elizabeth Bishop, Collected Poems; Franz Wright, Walking to Martha’s Vineyard; Natasha Trethewey, Native Guard; Jane Miller, Palace of Pearls; Gail Mazur, Figures in a Landscape; Barbara Brown Taylor, When God is Silent; Graham Greene, The Quiet American.
Dark chocolate with espresso.
If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
Rainer Marie Rilke (1875-1926).
Where can we find more information about you?
Harvesting All Night available at www.Amazon.com
Winnowing Out Our Souls available http://www.foothillspublishing.com/2007/id153.htm