Writing to a Stranger

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Susie P. Gonzalez
Dec. 3, 2012

Writing to a Stranger

Trinity University poet is awarded Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts

Jenny Browne in class
Assistant professor Jenny Browne (right) during a class on poetry writing

SAN ANTONIO - Poetry is the vehicle Jenny Browne uses to confront what she calls a "splinter," an image or piece of language that leaves her feeling uncomfortable. While peeling back layers of the distressed situation, her poems spill out, often capturing the imagination of a broader audience. Based on a sample of 20 poems from her latest work, "Dear Stranger," the Trinity University poetry professor has been awarded a creative writing Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The 2013 Fellowship comes with a $25,000 grant that will represent not only support for Browne's creative work but the "gift of time" to revise "Dear Stranger" and begin other projects. She is one of only 40 recipients for the Fellowship from the 1,173 eligible applicants.

"This is an acknowledgement that not just my work, but creative work in general, matters," she said, adding that she admires the work of many of the other recipients and is honored to be among them. "All of these voices are saying something that is personal and maybe universal."

"Dear Stranger" is expected to be published in spring of 2013 by the University of Tampa Press as a series of poems that are actually love letters to a specific, named stranger. For example, she will address cities she has never visited and her father, who recently died, creating an opportunity to explore ways she does and does not know him. The title, she noted, is both a salutation and an adjective. "The self is the biggest stranger," she said.

A faculty member of Trinity's Creative Writing program housed in the English department, Browne said enrollment is growing and that students from all majors take her poetry classes.  "Poetry can tell you a particular story and say something bigger about what it means to be human," she said.