From a blue-collar upbringing in Groton, NY, a small town near Ithaca, to Cornell University majoring in industrial engineering, to “Philly,” to the NYC poetry scene, to three cross-country poetry tours, back to Groton, now in Colorado, Hahne’s journey is not over yet.
She’s traveling the road of discovery. And along the way, she’s writing, teaching, and learning. All seem equally important to her.
Thin and intense, Hahne is given to punctuating important points with angular gestures, like brackets. She admits she’s not quite committed to the hip area of
Boulder, CO. What she is committed to is “language and inquiry.“ For herself, and others. Especially now, she says, for teenagers.
“Language is a creative act and it creates constructively and destructively,” Hahne said. “And teens have constructed themselves out of what people have said to them.” She wants to make a difference, and teach them they are the creators of their lives.
Hahne certainly has created her own. She’s a published poet with her work in 13 literary magazines and included in nine poetry anthologies. Soon to be 10. She has also won numerous awards for her poetry – including 1st Place in the 6th Annual Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards of 2011.
Hahne’s degree in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering is an unlikely major for a poet. “My parents encouraged me to pursue something practical, something that would lead to a good job,” Hahne said.
After working for a food service management company for several years, Hahne realized she wasn’t enjoying her jobs. “I took classes in poetry, creative nonfiction and education at UPenn,” she related. “Then I scored a one-year position at a Quaker school in Philly teaching math.” She realized she loved teaching and writing.
Fueling her passion for poetry and the writer’s life, Hahne covered the poetry scene in Philadelphia for the About.com Guide to Poetry. She went to New York to work on the People’s Poetry Gathering (created by City Lore, Poets House, and Bob Holman of the Bowery Poetry Club). “I immersed myself in the New York poetry scene, reading poems at various open mikes and poetry slams in coffeehouses and bars.”
She got both positive and negative feedback – as all writers do. By now she had published a few poems and she set up a road tour and read her poems in 50 venues over four months, in Seattle, Galveston, Montana, and California, among other places.
Her “Plastic Igloo Poetry Tour” came complete with a CD of her poetry, “notspeak.” The title is a reference to one of her favorite quotes by Macrima Wiederkher – “If it doesn’t improve on the silence, don’t say it.”
By now, she was clear that writing and teaching poetry were her calling…. as was being a perpetual learner. In addition to her degree from Cornell, classes at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a certificate in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and courses at West Chester University, she is currently enrolled in an MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop, with an emphasis in Poetry.
Hallowed ground – “Writing Church”
Hahne currently offers her own writing classes. To prepare for the interview, I participated in her Sunday morning “Writing Church” – a term that works in the university town of Boulder, but may not in a more conservative area. I can attest that Hahne has a poet’s exquisite sensitivity to language. She has an utter reverence for words – and in her class she encourages you to find your own beautiful words that caress your ear or taste sweet as you roll them around in your mouth; power words that dredge up strong emotions hidden in your heart; light words that float like petals in the air; concrete words that draw pictures in your mind; and telling combinations of words that touch your soul.
Hahne has taught workshops for many organizations including 11 years of workshops for the International Women’s Writing Guild. “That was an awesome home for me as a woman writer,” she said. Now she has started her own organization for women and girl writers, The Avocado Sisterhood. She gives workshops through the Sisterhood, Writing Church, and her Denver-based Meetup group, Front Range Writers’ Room. She also freelances as a copyeditor.
There’s not room here for all her accomplishments.
Yet, Hahne is still seeking….. “inquiry” is a word she uses over and over. Inquiry is the vehicle we ride on the road to discovery. And Hahne is definitely on taking that ride.
Story and photos, except where noted, by Bojinka Bishop
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Having been in one of her poetry workshops, I attest to Marj’s enthusiasm for language, her sense of play and joy in writing and teaching words.
And listen to her read aloud her poetry…powerful, dramatic imagery and storytelling at its best.
Wonderful profile of a delightful, deeply empathic and gifted woman. Thank you Bojinka. Marj is a poet, woman’s advocate and teacher for all ages!
Fortuna smiled when I took my first poetry course with Marj Hahne. She ignites the passion for words. Thanks for featuring her in this blog.
Marj is one of the best teachers I know. Her passion lights the fires of other writers and her new enterprise, The Avocado Sisterhood is another positive force for emerging writers
as well as experienced ones. I loved this article; it captured
the Marj I know and love.
Marj Hahne is a fiercely talented and inspiring woman. Thank you for profiling her.
Marj is an incredible writer and teacher. This article gets it just right.
Marj is a great teacher. Her Avocado Sisterhood is an ingenious way to reach out and encourage other writers. If you want evidence of her creativity, go to her site and check the number of ways she plays on the word “Avocado.” Cool stuff!
Marj is an extraordinary teacher and poet. Be with her for a hour and words will have new inflections, study with her and build a reverence for what writing CAN be, read her work and be amazed.
Simply listening to Marj speak on the phone is a delight. The sound of her voice and her use of the English language is captivating. What a beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing it.