Professor of English finds meaning through poetry


Due to editing errors, this aritcle was reposted on 10/30/2014. The following is a more accurate report of Dr. Maier’s poetry reading event. 

Dr. Jennifer Maier, professor of English and a published poet, says her first experiment with writing poetry happened when she encountered large flying cockroaches while living in New Orleans during graduate school at Tulane University.

“They have these hideous insects that they euphemistically call palmetto bugs, but that are really giant flying cockroaches. They’re as big as mice,” said Maier.

Maier found herself reading mock-heroic poems by Alexander Pope for her 18th-century literature course and was faced with these flying cockroaches everywhere, which she had a great fear of.

“And so 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.

She eventually took to writing more poems about living in New Orleans and some of her early work was published in a journal called Negative Capability.

Maier also attributes her interest in poetry to its influence on her early life, when her father and great-grandmother would read to her.

“I think those rhythms and cadences of poetry got into my ear early, and I felt safe in my father’s lap,” said Maier.

Maier graduated from the University of Washington in 1985 with degrees in English and physiological psychology. She planned to attend medical school after graduating from UW, but instead decided to continue with 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 about whether to go to medical school…or to go to graduate school in English…which was the right choice for me,” said Maier.

Poetry is inspired from many different places, but for Maier, “poetry is revealed in a kind of irony, some situational irony.”

“You write a lot of poems and then you find that there’s a thread, which is one of your psychological preoccupations,” said Maier on how Now, Now, her most recent collection, came to be.

Maier has been teaching at Seattle Pacific for over 15 years. She has received much recognition for her work in poetry and has appeared in many literary journals.

This article was posted in the section News.