When professor of English Jennifer Maier reads poetry, she thinks of college and cockroaches.
Maier said that during her time as a graduate student at Tulane University in New Orleans, she remembers watching cockroaches fly around the classroom during an 18th century literature oral examination.
“They have these hideous insects that they call palmetto bugs but that are really giant flying cockroaches. They’re as big as mice,” Maier said.
Maier said that though she has always had a great fear of cockroaches, she hoped to become less afraid by writing poems about them.
“…I thought, maybe I’ll achieve some kind of catharsis if I write a mock-heroic poem to my adversary, my enemy — the cockroach,” Maier said.
Having appeared in more than four literary journals and featured several times on Public Radio International, Maier spoke to a crowd of about 15 faculty and staff during Thursday afternoon’s Now, Now: Selected Conversations and Readings event, titled after her second collection of poetry, which was published last year.
Her first collection, titled Dark Alphabet, was published in 2006. Also inspired by the art, history and culture of New Orleans, Maier said that she developed her writing while at Tulane and was eventually published in a literary journal called Negative Capability. She attributes her initial interest in poetry to the influence her father and great grandmother had on her when they read it to her as a child.
“I think those rhythms and cadences of poetry got into my ear early,” Maier said. “I felt safe in my father’s lap.”
Originally, Maier said that she planned to attend medical school after graduating from the University of Washington in 1985 with degrees in English and neuroscience. Instead, she decided to continue her postgraduate work in American literature.
“I was kind of a science major, but a closet English major, so when I graduated, I had to make a decision … whether to go to medical school … or to graduate school in English,” Maier said.
Maier has been teaching literature courses in modern and contemporary poetry as well as creative writing seminars and workshops at Seattle Pacific for more than 15 years. Currently, she is working on another poetry collection featuring poems told from the point of view of inanimate objects.
“Poetry is revealed in a kind of irony, some situational irony,” Maier said. “You write a lot of poems and then you find that there’s a thread… [The thread] is one of your psychological preoccupations.”