Jennifer Bullis, 47, is originally from Reno and attended Claremont McKenna College in California, where she majored in history and literature. She received her master's and doctoral degrees in English at University of California Davis, where she specialized in American literature.
Bullis hosts a reading of her poetry and a book launch for her recently published chapbook, "Impossible Lessons," at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 10, at Village Books, 1200 11th St.
For more about her, go to her blog at jenniferbullis.wordpress.com.
Question: How did you come to Whatcom County?
Answer: When my husband, Mark Kummer, and I were in grad school, we would escape the summer heat in the Sacramento Valley by taking road trips to the Pacific Northwest. We "discovered" Bellingham on our very first trip and kept it in our minds as a place where we'd love to settle eventually. (In 1993, my husband's first veterinary job took us to Woodinville, where we lived for two years.)
Q: What's your career history?
A: I taught part-time at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma and finished my dissertation while searching for a full-time teaching job. In 1995, I was offered a tenure-track position (teaching English) at Whatcom Community College, and we moved to Bellingham. I resigned that position in 2006, after our son was born. We continue to count ourselves lucky that our jobs brought us to this beautiful, green place.
Q: When did you fall in love with literature?
A: Since early childhood I've loved reading, literature, word games, puns. Poetry has had a strong pull on me spiritually; something transcendent seems available within or beyond the words.
Metaphors, too, contain meaning-rich gaps.
Q: Which poets do you admire?
A: I first sensed these possibilities in poetry when I read Emily Dickinson during high school. I continue to return to Dickinson's poems to re-inspire my own writing.
Other poets I admire include A.R. Ammons, Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, Luci Shaw and Jim Bertolino - all wonderful interpreters of nature and its philosophical/spiritual dimensions. I also enjoy Heather McHugh's poems for their complex wit and wordplay.
Q: How did your poetry chapbook come about?
A: I had been submitting various versions of my book manuscript to poetry publishers for eight years, when, in May 2012, Lana Hechtman Ayers invited me to send my manuscript to her. She publishes long chapbooks (of about 30 to 45 pages) through MoonPath Press (in Kingston), which focuses on Pacific Northwest poets.
From my longer manuscript, she selected about 40 poems and arranged them into an artful sequence that I never would have been able to come up with on my own. Mine is one of six beautiful chapbooks that Lana has published at MoonPath Press this year.
Q: What's your writing process?
A: My writing process usually involves reading and walking. First, I read some work by other poets, and then, with my head full of their excellent words, I go for a hike.
The movement of walking brings my own words forward. I take along a sheet of paper and a pen, and write down lines as they occur to me. Often an image or event from my walk helps those lines crystallize into a poem afterwards.
Writing exercises and prompts also work well to get me started on a poem. Deadlines also help me be productive. Twice last year, I committed to poem-a-day challenges that forced me to make writing one of my foremost priorities.
My family commitments don't allow me to write all of the time, but since my son began school full-time last year, I've been able to fit in writing more new poems, along with revising and sending out polished work, during the hours he's in school.
Q: I know you love horses! What else do you enjoy?
A: Riding, working with, and being near horses has been a lifelong passion for me.
I explore another passion of mine - trail s- on my own feet as well. I'm also extremely fond of madrona trees.