Poetry reading planned at book gallery

Posted: March 20, 2014

The Winchester Star

Jessie Janeshek

Winchester — Poet Jessie Janeshek loves connecting with an audience during a poetry reading.

When she is performing for a group of people, she can watch their reactions — good, bad or indifferent — and see how or if her poems are reaching them. The moment when she can see that her poems are making people feel something is an incredibly satisfying one, said Janeshek, 31, of Bethany, W.Va.

“One of the main functions of poetry is to build a bridge between yourself and the audience, and you really get to see that bridge when you are a in a public setting,” said Janeshek, assistant professor of English at Bethany College.

Janeshek is hoping for that level of connection when she has a poetry reading and book signing from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Winchester Book Gallery, 185 N. Loudoun St.

She will sign copies and read poems from her first book, “Invisible Mink,” as well as sharing some of her more recent poetry. The book is $14.

Many of the poems in “Invisible Mink,” which was released in 2010, were inspired by Janeshek watching a great deal of classic film while she was earning a doctorate at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

“At the time, I was reading a lot of feminist theory and watching a lot of classic movies,” she said. “I found that writing poems in the voices of those characters was an effective way to look at the place of women in American society then and now.”

One poem is from the perspective of a dual role actress Bette Davis played in “A Stolen Life,” the poet said. Another is set in the world of “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” with Davis and Joan Crawford.

Sometimes Janeshek seems to be in a movie herself since she “creates an atmosphere of beauty around her,” said Marilyn Kallet, the Nancy Moore Goslee professor of English and director of the creative writing program at the University of Tennessee. She was Janeshek’s mentor and dissertation adviser.

When Kallet taught “Invisible Mink” in one of her undergraduate classes, she wondered how the students would react since it is edgier and more experimental than other texts. She found they loved it, partly because it showed them poetry doesn’t have to be stodgy.

“I think it gave them permission to be themselves and not try to copy other poets,” she said. “I think they also really enjoyed the cinematic aspect to it. They are very visual and love media.”

Kallet said one of the things she admires about Janeshek is her ability as a performer to breathe life into her already lively poems. With her performance, she teaches the audience how to read her poetry for the best experience. “Rhythmically you get something that is very modern and very edgy. She is more like modern dance than ballet.”

In addition to the film-inspired poems in “Invisible Mink,” it has a section of poems that are spoken through the voice of Lucy Snowe in Charlotte Brontë’s novel, “Villette.” The character in the novel is a cold British young woman who “goes to France and is dazzled by the heat and passion of the people,” Janeshek said.

She will also read some of her newer poems, which are still interested in exploring gender but also deal more with setting. They are more influenced by “Southern Gothic literature like Flannery O’Connor and Carson McCullers.”

The poems from the book are from a variety of different perspectives, while the newer work is one consistent voice, she said.

Janeshek earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Bethany College and a master’s in creative writing and poetry from Emerson College in Boston. Her concentrations for a doctorate were in American literature before 1900, American female poets, and feminist theory.

She started writing poetry seriously in high school when she realized how much she enjoyed working with language and placement on the page. “I saw it allowed for more possibilities to express ideas.”

Information

The Winchester Book Gallery, 185 N. Loudoun St., will have a poetry reading and book signing by Jessie Janeshek, author of “Invisible Mink,” from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday. The book is $14. For more information, contact 540-667-3444.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com