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The Rural We: Sally Van Doren

Photo by Nancy Crampton

Sally Van Doren is an award-winning poet who lives part-time in Cornwall, Conn. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said her third collection of poetry, published this year, “features smart poems that bring a cheeky edge to the theme of domestic bliss.” Just last month two of her poems were selected and read by Garrison Keillor on “The Writer’s Almanac,” a program on American Public Media. Author of two other books of poetry, she also is an artist and has recently been creating artwork in tandem with her poetry. On Saturday, Nov. 11 at 5 p.m., Van Doren will be presenting her work, which will be followed by a reception, at the Cornwall Library.

I have 12,000 pages of abstract writing, and have decided to focus more on combining it with art. The cover of my book “Promise” shows an example of what I do. I call it polysemic drawing. The drawings are like visualized thought and open to multiple meanings. The words are transformed in my mind as I’m writing them. I like the process of transformation into a visual gesture.

My Instagram posts are a separate part of my poetry practice. I have an epic poem, “The Sense Series,” which I’ve been writing since 2006 — one line every day. Now I post daily excerpts from that poem incorporated with my artwork. Some of those drawings are also polysemic. I’ve been doing that for almost two years.

My husband and I divide our time between Cornwall, New York and St. Louis, where we raised our boys, and where I’m from. I taught at the 92nd Street Y for the past three years, but I’ve stopped teaching there so I could allow myself more time to devote to my art. My husband’s family has been in Cornwall since the 1920s, and we live in his grandparents’ house. His grandfather was a famous poet, Mark Van Doren. He’s one of the Cornwall treasures.

We love being in Cornwall in the winter, especially since we’ve discovered snowshoeing. It’s a way to get us into the woods. We also like going around to all the towns and trying out new restaurants, and I love walking and playing tennis.

At the library event, I’ll do a combination poetry reading and art talk. I’ll read some poems from the new book, then intersperse some discussion of artwork on the walls, and end with a reading from “The Sense Series.” It’ll be a collaborative exercise with the audience, and I’m really looking forward to it.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 10/30/17 at 09:52 PM • Permalink