The Assistant Professor, Jenny Johnson who teaches in the department of English at the West Virginia University has been entitled as the NEA Creative Writing Fellow. By use of award, she is doing research & taking moving towards her second book of poems.
In her first book “In Full Velvet”. Johnson said: “My first book explores gender, desire, and LGBTQ lineage. It asks questions about the natural world – What is natural? What is normal? The title of the book is an allusion to the velvet on the antlers of white-tailed deer. That’s one reading. There’s also a poem about the fact that during mating season, when some bucks rub the velvet off their antlers, other deer never lose their velvet and never mate. I know I am anthropomorphizing here, but these deer are different, or dare I say queer? Often, they live solitary lives away from the pack, evade hunters and continue to have these beautiful velvet antlers for the rest of their lives. So, the phrase ‘in full velvet’ is a nod to the velvet-horned deer.”
Being residing in Virginia, she is amongst the thirty-five poets who got nominated for the award countrywide. Johnson stated: “I’m going to use the time and space the fellowship offers me to work on the second book of poetry, which, like the first collection, will be both personal and political. I’m not entirely sure where working on the next collection will lead, and that’s part of why I’m grateful for the fellowship. An important part of my process is to follow the hard questions that arise and to listen closely to what each poem needs.”
About her place where she writes creatively, she said: “I’ve found WVU to be a supportive and collegial space where I have outstanding colleagues who are wonderful to work beside, think beside and write beside. It’s definitely been nourishing to find a home here.”
Johnson was shortlisted from nearly 1,700 applicants. Chair of English Department, Brian Ballentine said: “We were extremely fortunate to have been able to hire Professor Johnson, and the NEA is another testament to her incredible abilities as a writer. In a very short amount of time, she has had a remarkably positive impact on the Creative Writing Program and the Department of English. We all look forward to her next collection of poems.”