Professor Lee Ann Brown is our resident poetry expert at St. John’s. She has been teaching poetry courses since 1990 when she was still in graduate school. She has taught at the Naropa institute, Brown University (where she earned both her B.A. and her M.F.A.), as well as here at St. John’s. She first arrived at St. John’s in 1996 as an adjunct professor at the Staten Island campus. In 2000, she began teaching full time here. She describes her teaching experience as “beginning anew every time, but that’s the beauty of teaching poetry writing, and learning along with your students.”
If you think you’re busy, I encourage you to check out Professor Brown’s profile on the English Department site. She has extensive experience in curating, multimedia, and poetry performances in addition to her work presented at conferences, public readings and lectures, residencies, and film and gallery shows. Her research interests include Contemporary Poetry & Poetics, Ecopoetics, Vernacular Poetry, Poetry in Endangered Languages, Southern Literature, D.I.Y. cultural movements, and Performance & Film. Her favorite class to teach? Anything to do with Poetry!
When Professor Brown is not in the classroom, she attends a lot of poetry readings such as The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, the Bowery Poetry Club, or Poets House. She describes herself as “a poetry-centered culture vulture”! She also enjoys taking walks, going to museums, and attending playdates with her daughter, Miranda. Professor Brown’s husband, Tony Torn, is a great actor and film director. She often attends off-off-off Broadway plays and happenings with him, and she also enjoys collaborating with him on projects. Recently, she re-joined a performance group, the Reverend Billy’s Church of Earthalujah Gospel Choir.
Over the summer break from school, Professor Brown heads down to Marhsall, NC near Asheville in the heart of Appalachia to work on a collaborative project. She describes, “We obtained a decommissioned church and started a performance space called The French Broad Institute (of Time & the River) there, named for a combination of the river that flows past its door The French Broad. It also contains literary references to Asheville writer, Thomas Wolfe’s, Of Time & the River and Wilma Dykeman’s book, The French Broad, which fused folklore, history and environmentalism in a way I admire.” You can read more about The French Broad Institute here.
No matter where Professor Brown is, though, or what she is working on she is always looking for a poem. She describes her goal in both writing and teaching as opening people up to “the multiplicity of words.” When reading an article in the Science Times on a recent earthquake, Professor Brown shared with us this “found poem”:
The East is riddled with old faults,
the legacy of the pushing and pulling
that created the Appalachian Mountains and the
Atlantic Ocean several hundred million years ago
When asked if she could offer just one piece of advice to her students, Professor Brown shared this:
Do all you can to take control of your own intellectual life, and integrate it into daily practice. View college as a time to learn HOW to learn, and how to make your own “assignments” for yourself for the rest of your life.
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