Poet Jennifer Coleman rounds Dupont Circle on a Yamaha motorcycle and pulls up in front of a bar, carrying a copy of Ezra Pound’s poetry in her bag. As she orders a drink inside, she jokes about the psychology and pathology of human consciousness and the roots of anger.
“A professor once told me that my poetry is like rage distilled until it’s almost joy,” says Coleman, her left hand propped up on her motorcycle helmet. “I can write about things as diverse as riding on my motorcycle and theories of consciousness, and I would say that it’s more about language and voices than it is about any particular theme. But those two emotions butting heads and becoming each other is an energy that I’m really interested in with a lot of my workit’s almost euphoric, except that it’s also pretty angry.”
Coleman is co-author, with friends Allison Cobb and Christopher Putnam, of a forthcoming chapbook titled Communal Bebop Canto, which comes out in November and contains such violent passages as “The burning arrows of wind/Sprung up remind me not to kiss, or clutch/Jaws open in the morning./I snapped his neck down to/his chest. Never go down in history.” She’s also active in the local performance-poetry scene. With an MFA in poetry and an undergraduate degree in theater, Coleman says she likes to blur the lines between the two.
She cites George Mason’s Poetry Theater as a major influence on her own verse while she was working on her creative writing degree. “There’s probably a lot of poets with a very visual imagination that is limited by the fact that they’ve never called themselves an artistthey’ve never considered themselves to be a visual artist,” she says.
Coleman is currently working on a manuscript called School Bus Murders, and, she says, reading up on brain science as part of her exploration into conflicting emotions, which she calls an integral part of her work.
“I think that my personal approach to life has more to do with awe and wonder and celebration and understanding than it has to do with rage and battle,” says Coleman. “But at the same time I’m fascinated with rage as an expression of the id, as something that’s very human but doesn’t have much place in society.” Colin Bane
Coleman reads with Jefferson Hansen Saturday, Oct. 10, at 7:30 p.m. at Ruthless Grip Art Project, 1508 U St. NW.