Hobart Festival of Women Writers is over the moon to welcome Annie Finch as a Participating Writer for Festival 2018.
Named “one of the central figures in contemporary American poetry” by the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Annie Finch is the author or editor of more than twenty books. Her work has been translated into numerous languages and received such honors as the Robert Fitzgerald Award and the Sarasvati Award for Poetry. Best known for her poetry, Finch also writes literary essays, textbooks, and plays, and her work has been included in such anthologies as The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century American Poetry, and The Norton Anthology of World Poetry. Her notable works include Among the Goddesses, The Body of Poetry, Calendars, Eve, and Spells: New and Selected Poems.
Finch penned the memorial poem for the 9/11 attacks that accompany Meredith Bergmann’s sculpture installed at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. She also wrote the keynote poem for the National Museum for Women in The Art’s Inauguration of the Women’s Poetry Timeline. Annie Finch earned her Ph.D. from Stanford University, an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston, and a BA in English from Yale University.
On Witches, Mythology, and Building Your Own House: Annie Finch speaks with Stephanie Nikolopoulos for HBVFWW
SN: Your writing has long centered on goddesses and witches. In 1997 your poetry book Eve was published and was a finalist for the Yale Series of Younger Poets and National Poetry Series; it was later selected for reprint in the Classics Contemporaries Poetry Series from Carnegie Mellon University Press. The poems in it were about goddesses. You went on to write the poetry books Calendars (2003; shortlisted for the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year Award), which was organized around the pagan Wheel of the Year; Among the Goddesses: An Epic Libretto in Seven Dreams (2010); and Spells: New and Selected Poems (2012). In 2013 you began publishing nonfiction writing about goddess spirituality and witchcraft for The Huffington Post, and you’re currently pitching your first witchery book, The Witch in You: Five Directions to Your Inner Goddess. Witchcraft has become more popular in recent years, and we’re even seeing the phenomenon of the “hipster witch,” with articles like The New Republic’s “The Rise of the Hipster Witch,” Brooklyn Magazine’s “Witches as the New Hipsters,” and Bust’s “How I Went from Urban Witch to Real-Deal Witch.” According to a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center, there is a “growing minority of Americans, particularly in the Millennial generation, who say they do not belong to any organized faith.” Why do you think witches are trending? Is it a hipster fad, a replacement community for traditional organized faith, a feminist response to conservative faiths, or something else entirely?
AF: Witchery is the spiritual path of the matricultural (women-centered) societies that prevailed for tens of thousands of years on our planet before the rise of patriarchy. So it makes sense that witches are trending now, as patriarchy destroys itself right in front of us. Women and our allies are excited that we have the chance to shape our own lives at last, in harmony with each other and according to our own gifts. Shaping a new kind of life takes awareness and spiritual strength, and witchcraft is an amazing spiritual resource for contemporary women. It is diverse and inclusive, fun and flexible, and it focuses on our own inner power, the sacredness of Earth, and the Divine Feminine. While it may be a fad now, its roots go back tens of thousands of years, long before patriarchy began, so I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. Witchcraft is like a spring that flows naturally from the earth of our souls when we make space for it to happen. So no, I don’t think the current witch-interest is a reaction to conservative or male-centered faiths. It has been there all along, often hiding in plain sight within the customs of traditional religion. Now it is coming out of the shadows, as the patriarchal control and censorship that had been oppressing it crumble
SN: You recently participated in the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology and its satellite conference, Modern Matriarchal Studies Day. Can you tell us a little about why this is, as you said in your newsletter, your favorite scholarly conference? What can women today gain from looking at mythology?
AF: ASWM womenandmyth.org is my favorite scholarly conference because it brings together amazing scholars, activists, and artists from all over the world—almost all of us women—who share courageous excitement about uncovering long-repressed truths and a powerful vision for sustainable, peaceful, matricultural (women-centered) societies. Attending ASWM and MMSD inspires me as a person with the kind of community women can create together, and it inspires me as a writer with a wealth of exciting images, stories, research, and ideas. Yes, pre-patriarchal mythology can offer a spiritual lifeline to women; it is nothing less than the collected art, dreams, and tales of societies where women have been spiritually, and culturally, central—cultures that embrace a polytheism of goddesses and gods, as opposed to the more recent patriarchal religions where a male god exists alone or gods dominate over goddesses. Our imaginations can be powerfully charged, and changed, by contact with the earth-centered, women-empowering richness of matricultural mythology.
SN:In addition to writing poetry, much of your work has been focused on writing about poetry: Measure for Measure: The Music of Poetry (2015), Multiformalisms: Postmodern Poetics of Form (2008), A Formal Feeling Comes: Poems in Form by Contemporary Women (1994; 2007), Lofty Dogmas: Poets on Poetics (2005), An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art (2002), After New Formalism: Poets on Form, Narrative, and Tradition (1999). Why do you write literary criticism? How does it inform your own poetry?
AF: Criticism is like politics. We all depend on it and are affected by it—whether we are aware of that or not. Writers need a critical context to write in, and if we don’t make our own criticism, we will end up writing according to someone else’s. When you write your own criticism, it’s like you get to design and build the house you live in, exactly the way you need and want it. As a poet writing for a world that does not yet exist, I found that I needed to write my own criticism in order to clear a space for my poetry to become itself. I have used criticism to redefine terms, to reassess and reclaim poets of the past, to trace and encourage poetic connections and conversations among my contemporaries, and to learn deeply about what poems can do. In general, I would say that writing criticism has given me permission. For example, my work reclaiming form gave me permission to become a postmodern poet who loves form and a literary poet who loves sound, and my work tracing women’s poetic traditions gave me permission to write in sensual and playful ways about topics that interest me as a woman.
For Festival of Women Writers 2018, Annie Finch will conduct the very exciting and wholly engaging workshop:
The Healing Spiral of Rhythmic Language
This workshop will tap into the power of rhythmic language—the beat of charms and chants—to help participants access and transform voices in themselves that they may never have heard before. No experience with poetry is necessary.
For more about Annie Finch and her work, go to AnnieFinch.com
Spotlights of all of our Participating Writers at www.hobartfestivalofwomenwriters.blog
DON’T HESITATE. WORKSHOP PLACES ARE LIMITED.
REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN!!! www.hobartfestivalofwomenwriters.com