Jan Dederick

Jan Dederick

Jan was born with the writing bug. But she has bites from a lot of bugs,  the music bug, the gardening bug, the homeopathy bug, so that she can’t seem to find time to ‘send her work out’  – – you know, ‘out’  in the official sense.  

Nevertheless, she has self-produced two chapbooks and one full-length memoirish collection. She takes Rilke’s advice to heart:   ‘you write because you have to.’ Her favorite topics seem to be nature, the irony of humans and human culture, mothering, healing (her day job is as a homeopath and Kairos therapy practitioner). 

She loves to write in form, as well as free verse, is not afraid to rant,  and accepts her tendency to become emotional while reading.

Jan is a co-host of Poetry Express, a weekly reading in Berkeley.

Help Me Out, Billy     

In response to several interviews with Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate.                                                 


Billy, I know I have no business taking issue

with “the most popular living American poet,”

but you hit a nerve when you said you have

”’no interest in being confronted with anyone’s trauma.”


I’m not here to interest you in mine, for sure,

but to invite you to reflect a while:

it seems to me, a novice, Billy, that your poems simply arise

like New Jersey August sweat, shoot like New Hampshire August stars.


Many poems, though, curl nascent in history’s piñatas,

needing life’s cudgel to blow them free.

All over the floor, poems: messy.


But, no trauma, you say: you only want a poem to 

“linguistically pleasure” you.

Yet, in a dream, Poetry told me

 something else:  that she is a bridge to the heart.

So I’m confused, Billy.  Help me out here.

You said, “83% of poetry is not worth reading.”

Those odds are worse than passing the California Bar Exam.

And Billy, you said you “get frustrated” teaching students

who lack “what it takes,” who’d “do better to study laying tile

than poetry.”


Reflecting on your words, while brushing my hair,

I look deeply into the mirror to see if I am a person

who would frustrate you in class, or who’d pleasure you


A sense of rhythm you said, sine qua non:

there’s a turbine in my hips that lifts me, 

a metronome in my bone, driving, driving.

Would their bebop pass your poet’s muster?

And metaphor, the other must-have, that connection between

pedestrian and lunatic: the hair brush, for example,

and a golf club. I can drive an image onto the green, under par,

putt a pun out of Villanelle’s bunker, poetic birdie.

And even alliterate a little bit.

Does that make me a worthy candidate to play

in the Fields of the Word with you?

Could I aspire to join the 17%? 

And even if not, surely teacher and student agree:

83% of poetry  may not be worth reading,

but all of it’s worth writing.

So help me out, Billy. I’m still sitting here, brush in hand.