By: Gail Obenreder
“Poetry has given me a refuge within myself – and a way to appreciate what is simple and what confounds.”
Due to her father’s corporate career, poet Jane C. Miller had a peripatetic childhood, growing up in a “transitory, normal life in glamorous locales.” By the time she went to college, Miller (and her twin sister and younger brother) had lived in multiple states and European countries, feeling (in the words of a Basho poem), “Wherever I travel, wherever I happen to find myself, I am not from there.”
But these experiences that might have disoriented and dismayed some people have served as a springboard for the poet. “Reading became a constant companion and creativity, its dividend.” From high school through college, there was always a teacher encouraging her. But it didn’t mean she had the confidence to proceed.
After earning a BA in English Literature, Miller “realized I had nothing to say [and] made the conscious decision to stop.” She didn’t really write again until her children were older, and when she returned to her artistic practice, she moved “from unfinished novels and stories to poetry, my first love.”
Learning to Sleep Sitting Up (2020)
after Cecilia Woloch
Wasn’t I happy once,
gripping the swing I had cleaned
of dew with the dish cloth,
the air foggy with sun?
And didn’t I mourn but leave
mourning behind, my goldfish
buried in the matchbox?
And wasn’t I brave and sad and afraid
when we left that house behind and
moved and moved for jobs?
And wasn’t it grown-up of me,
Mother said, that I became expert,
so good at packing bags?
And was I not cheerful then, was I not
cheerful as blacktop, hills and yellow lines?
Miller has lived in Wilmington for over 25 years, where she carved out a public relations and marketing career and recently co-founded Expanding Options, an advocacy support group for adults with low-support needs and their caregivers. Since returning to poetry a decade ago, she has published widely, thanks to the support and encouragement of others. She credits a DDOA Writing Retreat (led by then Delaware Poet Laureate JoAnn Balingit) as the catalyst. “Without that program and her inspiration,” Miller said, “I would be a dabbler.”
Miller also credits Linda Blaskey, former long-time poetry editor of The Broadkill Review and current coordinator of the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, for her tireless support. Together with Gail Braune Comorat, Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll, and Blaskey, Miller co-wrote the poetry collection Walking the Sunken Boards (Pond Road Press, 2019). They have since turned their energies to create ൪uartet, a quarterly online poetry journal launched in January 2021.
Among Miller’s recent accolades and awards are first prize in the 2020 Naugatuck River Review’s annual narrative poetry contest, as well as finalist and honorable mention in the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry and the Red Wheelbarrow poetry contest. She also earned first prize for her poem “Great Green Room” and second prize for Walking the Sunken Boards from the National Federation of Press Women.
Thrilled when a poem takes shape, Miller has found it challenging this past year to write. “This virus has made a fog of the future and turned freedom into uncertainty.” Support from her writing groups is essential, with regular deadlines that “work wonders for creativity!” And she continues to be inspired by books, most recently Obit by Victoria Chang and The Animal Gospels by Brian Barker.
Previous recipient of a 2014 Emerging award, Miller says that this Established Fellowship is “an honor and an opportunity to expand my learning and experience.” She plans to attend a conference or retreat and also will use some of the funds to support ൪uartet. “Inspiration comes through what the body perceives and holds,” and Miller is “thankful for other poets . . . as I read their work, as I write my own. What a challenge, what a gift.”Fellowship Home
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