Congratulations, Janine! We love your "Justine" Series and thought "A Good Laugh" was especially beautiful. Our readers would love to learn more about you. Would you tell us a little about yourself?
I live in Sonoma, California, with my two Samoyeds, and am a psychiatrist as well as a poet. I have been writing all my life and have published many books of poetry: Of Your Seed, Daughter, Who Buried the Breast of Dreams, Shapes of Self, Her Magnificent Body: New & Selected Poems, Changing Woman, In the Palace of Creation: Selected Works 1969-1999, and several chapbooks. I have also written essays and stories. You may find out more about me and my work at my web site JanineCanan.com.
Q. What would you want our readers to know about you?
My work includes editing, translating and anthologizing the words of other women as well. In 1989, I edited She Rises like the Sun: Invocations of the Goddess by Contemporary American Women Poets (illustrated by Mayumi Oda), which received the Koppelman award. Over a 30 year period I translated the lyrical poetry of German Jewish Expressionist poet Else Lasker-Schueler (who fled Germany in 1932 and died in Palestine in 1945), published in 2000 as Star in My Forehead. When my friend Lynn Lonidier, a San Francisco avant-garde lesbian feminist poet, passed away, I gathered her last poems and opera libretto in The Rhyme of the Ag-ed Mariness. And in the last seven years I collected and translated the inspiring words of Amma, the Indian “hugging saint”, recently published in a beautiful edition with color photos as Messages from Amma: In the Language of the Heart. I care deeply about furthering the welfare of women, the nurturing feminine energy, and worship of the feminine form of God.
Q. Do you write in a particular genre? If so, what genre is it?
I write poetry, stories, and essays.
Q. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
Authenticity, energy, heart, depth, and craft.
Q. How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
When I am telling a story, I try to be honest and entertaining and share what I know of life. My stories usually flow spontaneously; I use no formulas.
Q. What do you do to unwind and relax?
Read good books and watch good films, walk my two beloved Samoyeds, laugh with my friends, and meditate.
Q. What inspires you? Who inspires you?
Life inspires me. Anything can inspire me if I am open to it: People, nature, art, imagination, the Divine. I am especially inspired by the Indian holy woman known as Amma.
Q. Are you working on any projects right now?
I am always working on several books. Currently these include a series of short stories, Journeys with Justine; a collection of poems, Voyage to the Heart; and a collection of essays, Goddesses, Goddesses: A Poet's Journey.
Q. What is most frustrating about writing? Most rewarding?
Most difficult and painful, for me, is being a poet in such a shallow materialistic culture. It is hard not to have an audience with whom one is naturally in relationship; one misses the company, dialogue, and appreciation. Conversely, it is very rewarding to discover that something I have created is moving, meaningful or helpful to another person. This uplifts and inspires me to carry on.
Q. If I were sitting down to write my very first story, what would your advice be?
Be true to yourself. Write about what you most care about. Write with your whole self. Tell everything you know. Write as beautifully as you can. Revise.
Q. What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Read great writers constantly. Be honest in your writing. Go deep. Open your heart and write freely. And then revise. And revise some more.