Sandy Yannone

American poet who uses objects as metaphors to explore her emotional landscape

John Rainsford

Reporter:

John Rainsford

Sandy Yannone

American poet Sandy Yannone who uses objects as metaphors to explore her emotional landscape

Born and raised in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, a coastal town in New England, I have lived my life as a perpetual student.

I graduated with degrees in English from Wheaton College (BA) in southern Massachusetts; from Emerson College (MFA) in Boston; and from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (PhD). I also attended Boston University School of Law but quit to return to poetry. Today, I am a faculty member at The Evergreen State College and encourage everyone to tap into their unique writing potential. I also teach a course called ‘Cultivating Voice’ for undergraduates interested in becoming writing tutors in the center that I direct. This commitment to my students’ learning can overwhelm the senses to the degree that I become too exhausted to write. Poetry, however, remains my grand motivator.

My parents and other elders genuinely encouraged me as a writer, reading to me constantly until I started to read on my own when I was three.

Both of my parents are incredible storytellers and harbour a deep desire to write. My mother loves poetry, and my father even wrote a collection of stories about the years he spent rescuing people as a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. My high school English teacher Donna Mattei greatly encouraged me to write poetry and to attend college. She truly modeled a passion for enjoying literature, writing, and teaching that I have tapped into on a daily basis ever since. For example, my current poetry project, (‘Museum of Glass’), is a meditation on growing-up in the family business. My earliest jobs were the piecework of making reproductions of Tiffany lamps in my father’s stained glass studio. Every poem in it contains the word ‘glass’. No coincidence, then, that I continue to live just thirty miles from Tacoma, in Washington, with its prominent glass museum.

Although born in the US, Ireland continues to feel familiar to me, despite my first visit to Limerick being only last July.

Back then, I was on an impromptu sojourn to Cobh to reconnect with my writing interests about the Titanic and Lusitania disasters. I had visited Cobh for six hours in April, 2012, when the Balmoral docked to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s maiden voyage. A friend encouraged me to connect with Jim Burke, and through Jim, Dominic Taylor invited me to read at The Buttery On the Nail on my last night in Ireland. That night I met an incredible group of poets including Edward O’Dwyer and Linda Louise Galvin. I was thrilled to return to Limerick recently to help Edward celebrate the release of his second poetry collection with Salmon Poetry at the Strand Hotel’s City View Suite.

What compels me to write is my desire to collect and to curate strange objects as metaphors to explore my emotional landscape.

Then, interweaving these both with the personal and the historical. First paid to write sports for our local newspaper in high school I gravitated toward writing. However, I started to appreciate poetry through a love of music, lyrics and storytelling. ‘The Beatles’ were an early influence. I kept a notebook where I copied down song lyrics. A few years later, I began to copy favorite poems, a practice that I still continue today upon discovering a poem that intrigues or enthralls me. Lately, these poems are by; Marie Howe, Li-Young Lee, Ocean Vuong, and Nikky Finney. I expect to discover many more in Salmon Poetry’s recent anthology ‘Even the Daybreak’. Some collaborative projects I’m working on currently involve the poets Liz Ahl and Linda Strever.

My first full-length collection of poetry was a finalist for a ‘first book prize’ (2012) with White Pine Press.

‘Boats for Women’ is about personal and historical disasters and survival, a coming-out narrative that features the Titanic sinking of 1912 as its central metaphor. I am drawn to juxtaposing narratives from the early Twentieth Century with my contemporary experiences. Over half of the poems from it have landed in wonderful literary journals across the United States during the past twenty years. Indeed, my chapbook, ‘Top’, features a number of the poems from the full-length version. The latter title refers to the spinning top in one of Fr Francis Browne’s famous photographs taken on board the Titanic and the central metaphor in my sestina ‘The Boy with the Top’. When I visit Limerick this week, I will reference my newest chapbook ‘Maiden Voyage’ which includes previous and newer poems about the Titanic. In addition, ‘Requiem for Orlando’, a sestina written in response to the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Florida, (June 2016), and a pair of poems that reference my time spent in Ireland last year, will be available. I, also, have another completed unpublished manuscript called; ‘Planetariums for the Blind’.

At different times I have contemplated going to auctioneering school or even getting a degree in counseling to enhance my role as an educator dealing with students’ writing traumas.

Indeed, there is a research field of study now emerging called ‘narrative medicine’, based upon the practice of different cultures who have used stories as a mode of healing for eons. I continue to be fascinated by the generative and regenerative healing properties of such tales, and how our health may be revived through the power of the narrative. I, also, dabble in selling antiques and have become drawn to objects that may, subsequently, become vessels for new stories!

Sandy Yannone will read her own work in Narrative4 on O’Connell Street on Thursday, April 20 at 7:30pm as part of the Limerick Writers’ Centre (LWC) ‘April is Poetry Month’ extravaganza. For more information please contact Dominic Taylor, Community Literature Officer of The LWC, email: limerickwriterscentre@gmail.com See also: Sandy Yannone on Facebook.com.