Interview: Janet Sorenson

Inspired by the experimental poetry I have been reading in UC Berkeley English Professor Janet Sorenson’s class, I felt compelled to infuse this sensibility into my unorthodox take on a conventional interview. I transformed my original interview with Sorenson into a poetic format to experiment with the traditional conceptions of a question-and-answer interview.

        “The Poetic Verse in the Interview”

I ventured into the professor’s study room in Wheeler Hall

  initially overwhelmed by the setting.

The small office room felt immense, dense in knowledge.

Her personable nature was soothing,

and we comfortably conversed about our college

experiences. She comically recalled her student years,

her knowledge and eloquence captivating.

She spun stories about her life,

and openly aired our shared strife when

it came to the subject of writing.

Our bittersweet feelings

towards this arduous undertaking.

But agreeing that it is the best way

to retreat from reality,

and escape within our own imaginations.

The interview began,

“When did you know you want to study English,

and what was the determining factor?”

She thought, and began,

“I started as a biologist, and wanted to be a scientist.

I attended Northwestern University, absolutely convinced

that my future was going to be

in the field of science. For a biology degree,

however, I had to take several impersonal classes

within enormous lecture halls, and the teachers

would not always turn around

or address their students during these lectures.”

She harkened back to her grueling days in college,

her mirth came through.

“I really surprised myself when I got out of the science classes,

but the decision is one I would never regret,

because I get to live in a world of ideas,

where I can read, listen, and respond to my students.

Being an English literature professor is just heaven for me.”

“What is your favorite book?”

As a book lover, I was eager to

discover this fact.

She thought for a while, then stated:

“Marilynne Robinson’s ‘Housekeeping,’

which discusses the vain, yet powerful hope

that all loss, in the end, can be recovered.

It’s beautiful and provocative,

and I could definitely dwell in that space forever.”

“What is your favorite period of literature?”

“The 18th-Century is the period that has always spoken to me.

The 18th-Century sparked a mass movement

in the modernization of literature,

which included English globalization,

and the crystallization of foreign relationships.

This period also is remarkably contemporary,

dealing with subjects which still pertain to current literature,

such as media saturation, and the importance of

preserving the environment.”

“Do you enjoy writing?”

“I love it and I hate it,

as I think most writers will say.

Undergraduates may interpret the difficulty

of writing into thinking that they are a bad writer,

but even people who write books and articles

have a lot of angst towards the writing process.

Even though most of the days I write,

the process is very hard, however, when you finally get

a great sentence or paragraph down,

it is the most rewarding feeling for a writer.”

I finished the interview

inspired by her radiating love for

the written word.

Looking around her study room

once more, I saw it in a new light.

I sensed that her books

were a part of her memories,

interlacing the past and present,

forever fixed into her personal history.

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