Poet, professor and friend: Ann Townsend

Who is Dr. Ann Townsend other than a professor, advisor and the head of the Creative Writing Department at Denison University? Townsend is a poet, a mother and an avid adventurer. She goes to the mountains to paint in her free time with her extensively fashionable hairdo and clothing style.

From a young age, Townsend was drawn to singing. As an undergraduate student at  Denison, she realized poetry was another form of song with its lyrical style and fluency. While at Denison, she majored in English with a minor in Philosophy. After graduating in 1985, she pursued her Masters and PhD in Literature from the Ohio State University and became an English professor shortly after.

Other than her adventurous and serious side, what else is she made of? Writing advice.

Townsend’s poetry and prose writing is an integral part of who she is as a person; she expresses herself through her various pieces and her love for writing is on full display in the classroom and beyond.

Townsend shares insight into her teaching experiences, I love challenging my students to discover how far they can go as writers and as thinkers, and I love watching them evolve. I love the conversation that emerges in a creative writing class — at its best, it’s honest, rigorous, and reveals our best quirky, nerdy selves as we struggle to find the right words to capture even the simplest of moments.”

She is a great role model for students who aim to create their own personal rhetoric and style in their writing. Her skill has taught many how they can learn to connect writing on the page with their day to day lives.

Some advice from Townsend about writing authentically follows: “Three things: first, write a lot. Write badly. Experiment. Write in genres outside of your comfort zone. Second: read widely and thoroughly. Read so much that you’re swimming in poetry and prose; read the stuff that you love, as well as things that appear strange or difficult to you. Read the newest writers, read the oldest writers. Learn what’s out there, then learn how to do it yourself. Third, while you will absorb a lot from your fellow readers and your teachers, remember to let your instincts take you in the direction that best suits you. Don’t be afraid to be your own weird self.”

Writing is not just random spurts of inspiration–it is trying to practice every day, or as much as possible in the small hours of a day.

“Sometimes I don’t write. I write as often as I can, wherever I can — waiting in the doctor’s office, at River Road Coffeehouse, early in the morning when my puppy gets me up for a walk. When I’m deep in a project (and I’m trying to finish two pretty large things right now), every spare moment is reserved for writing. But sometimes I don’t write for long stretches, and that’s okay, too. Sometimes it’s useful to simply be alive in the world. Then I get back to work.”

Townsend has also published two collections of poetry titled Dime Store Erotics and The Coronary Garden, and one collection of essays about poetry, edited with David Baker, titled Radiant Lyre: On Lyric Poetry.

“I’ve just completed my third collection of poems, and am about to send it to my publisher. It’s called Dear Delinquent, and I’m super excited that it’s finished,” Townsend reflects on her latest collection.

If you would like to check out some of Ann Townsend’s work, go to https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/ann-townsend or http://www.anntownsend.com/Ann_Townsend/ and explore the creative life of this wonderful Denison University Professor.