Contributor Spotlight: Jennifer Bullis

Jennifer-BullisJennifer Bullis’ poem “Amanda Bubbles Crafts a New Creation Story” is featured in Issue 71 of the Bellingham Review.

What would you like to share with our readers about the work you contributed to the Bellingham Review?

For the past several years, to make up for a deficit in my earlier education, I’ve been reading mythology. I’m especially fascinated by myths of origin: narratives about “how we came to be who we are in this place.” These stories are as interesting for what they leave out as for what they include, so in “A New Creation Story” I mash together a variety of different cultures’ creation myths, adding in at the end a dash of domestic detail, borrowed from new parents’ lives with young children.

Tell us about your writing life.

I’ve been writing poetry for fifteen years, motivated by a love of words and a need to make the inside of my own head legible to someone (ideally including myself). Apparently, I’m obsessed with questions about gods: do humans invent them, or do they invent us? If the gods who created us are benevolent, why do we treat each other so badly, and if we created them, why are they so unlikeable? I suspect there must be some symbiosis between us & them that I haven’t quite put my finger on, and this non-knowing is a powerful driver of writing.

What writing advice has stayed with you?

I always come back to any advice having to do with persistence, such as Madeleine L’Engle’s counsel to read widely, write daily, keep sending work out, and above all, just keep going.

Which non-writing aspect(s) of your life most influences your writing?

As a transplant from the high desert of northern Nevada, I’m invigorated by the water and verdure of the Pacific Northwest. On my best writing days, I hike for two hours on the trail systems at the edges of Bellingham—not necessarily gathering material, but organizing my mind in preparation for writing.

What is your favorite book (or essay, poem, short story)? Favorite writer(s)?

I love Annie Dillard’s essays in Teaching a Stone to Talk, and her Holy the Firm” strikes me as a prose-poem warm-up for my all-time favorite, “For the Time Being”. Dillard builds meta-metaphors like nobody else.

What are you reading right now?

Lots of wonderful poetry! I just finished Hannah Sanghee Park’s The Same-Different (LSU Press, 2015) and Susan Terris’s Memo (Omnidawn, 2015), and am in the middle of re-reading Ellen Bass’s The Human Line (Copper Canyon, 2007). Plus I’ve begun Thorpe Moeckel’s difficult and rewarding new “trilogy” of long poems, Arcadia Road (Etruscan, 2015).

What project(s) are you working on now, or next?

I’m in a shockingly messy phase of revising my book manuscript, which in its previous iteration was made up entirely of persona poems. What I’m doing now is working in my eco-poems, most of them in “my own” voice (whatever that might be from one poem to the next), amongst the persona poems. The challenge of weaving together these multiple voices is bending my brain in the best ways.

Anything else our readers might want to know about you?

My husband and I love long-distance walking in England, where over 10,000 miles of footpaths connect rural villages and market towns. In 2004, we walked a hundred-mile route along the River Spey in Scotland, from the Highlands to the North Sea. This year we plan to introduce our ten year-old son to the pleasures of pedestrian travel by doing a weeklong village-to-village walk in the Cotswolds.

Where can our readers connect with you online?

I blog about poetry, mythology, and hiking at my website.


JENNIFER BULLIS, originally from Reno, earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of California-Davis and taught community-college composition and literature in Bellingham for 14 years. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Iron Horse, Heron Tree, Tahoma, Cider Press Review, and the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. Her first collection, Impossible Lessons, was published in 2013 by MoonPath Press.