Alumni Spotlight: Anna Laura Reeve

Anna Laura Reeve

earned an MA in Literature & Poetry Writing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she lives with her daughter, husband, and garden.

When she’s not at her day job as a Montessori preschool teacher, she’s probably elbow-deep in the kitchen, garden, or library.

Her work has appeared in Cutthroat, Sakura Review, Fourteen Hills, Rockhurst Review, The Thinking Republic, The Knoxville Writer’s Guild, and others. Currently she’s working on her first collection of poetry.

  1. What is your artist name?
    (same as my name)
  2. Which city are you currently working from?
    Knoxville, TN
  3. What is your education, professional experience, awards, etc.
    I received an MA in Literature in Literature & Poetry from UT Knoxville after a BA in English Literature from Lipscomb University. My work experience has been in organic farming and Montessori preschool, but I’ve published poems here and there throughout and won the local writer’s guild’s poetry contest in 2019. 
  4. What is your personal creative background?
    I have a lot of creative impulses and interests, which is occasionally misery for a parent of a young child (since I don’t have time to pursue more than one at a time), but the most important to me by far is my writing. I started writing poetry in elementary school, borrowing rhyme, meter, and imagery from the A. A. Milne, Edgar Allen Poe, John Keats, and Robert Burns I was reading at the time. In high school, I discovered Gerard Manly Hopkins and Walt Whitman and it was off to the races at that point. Prose and poetry writing—in a pretty intensely repressive home life—became not just a way to make something beautiful, but a way to process tough things that happened in my home as a kid. I’m still in love with the magic of composition, and grateful for the ways it’s held my consciousness together over the years. Now I’m working on my first poetry manuscript and getting back into a creative rhythm after stalling out for quite a few years after my daughter was born. Feels really really good.
  5. Who are your main influences?
    Right now I’d say Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, and Rainer Maria Rilke are guiding lights, but I’ve been seriously marked by my encounters with Milton, Frost, Neruda, Yeats, Franz Wright, Mary Karr, Charles Wright, Jane Hirschfield, Wislawa Szymborska, Billy Collins, Eavan Boland, Adrienne Rich, and Anna Akhmatova. In no particular order. Poets of nature, of inner experience, of optimism in spite of it all, of feminism.
  6. What type of artist would you call yourself primarily?
    A poet.
  7. What other types of art do you enjoy?
    I love book-binding with leather, I love quilt-making, and I also love line drawing. I adored oil pastels for a brief time and will pick em up again one day. I love garden planning and cooking and flower arranging. 
  8. When you joined Art Office, what did your creative practice look like?
    I’d say my creative practice looked like a bomb went off in it and raccoons had colonized it and then been run off by a pack of stray dogs. I devoted anywhere between 0-3 hours of time per week to creative practice and desperately wanted to organize my life around creativity, instead of the other way around!! I was creating new material but was not revising, editing, or integrating it into any larger body of work or sending pieces off to literary magazines/contests, which were what I wanted to be doing.
  9. What are some challenges and strengths that you had at that time?
    As is exceedingly boring for non-parents to hear, I know, parenthood was a gift and rain of blows to the face at the same time. I’d never had so much material to work with, but never had so little time or energy to work with it. In the end, exhaustion can teach delegation and prioritization, and parenthood isn’t the only kind of exhaustion that can teach that, obvs, but I have been learning. Shout out to some wise and comforting advice from George Saunders I heard on Dear Sugar Podcast (“The Price of Our Dreams”)!
  10. How did Art Office play a role in addressing those challenges and strengths?
    Hashtag enneagram 4 needing some enneagram 1 organization! If you didn’t understand that sentence ignore it: basically I struggle to value my work enough to prioritize it, and I struggle to prioritize my work enough to actually sit down and do it. Art Office is targeted, I knew, at those weak spots. The structure and peer interaction reminded me that my art is important, and gave me a runway and support to get started. 
  11. What was one thing that stood out in your time in the program, that helped you in some way or showed you a new way of thinking about something?
    In spite of my introversion and creative independence, I was pretty stunned to realize I was enjoying talking to and sharing my work plans with artists from other disciplines. I think like a lot of things, isolation can make you a good bit sicker than you realize, which—unless you need to create some good sick art—can be bad for your creative process. It was for mine. Having another artist know about my project, consider it and offer thoughts, was something I just didn’t have in my life at the time, and it was a shot in the arm. 
  12. What was your final project/presentation?
    Compiling and editing poems for a manuscript.
  13. What tools has Art Office given you to apply to your daily practice outside the program?
    I like the program’s focus on “showing” your work. I’m used to piling up drafts which I may never return to, let alone send out. When I was setting myself the goal of showing my work, it of course helped me get used to the feeling of finishing work, again!
  14. Name one thing you would change about Art Office?
    I would bring it to my town. I like the program enough to apply for another sprint, but I miss seeing other artists in-person. I’m not alone I don’t think! Lucky Iowans!
  15. What are you working on now?
    Still working on that poetry manuscript, and have published a few poems from it in art zines and magazines.
  16. What are your professional/creative goals?
    I’d love to publish a poetry collection and get back into leather book-binding in the next 5 years.
  17. What is your dream project?
    Tbh I haven’t thought that far. My current project is, in many ways, a dream project, because I’m writing poetry about my experience of PPD—a hugely significant and healing effort. I think once I have finished it up, I’ll be able to think about the next one, a pretty exciting thought.
  18. Any plugs? Social media, events, collaborations?
    I’m a hermit so all I’ve got to offer here is social media! is my IG account where I’m getting creative with book reviews and writing; @anna.laura.reeve is where my gardens and food porn lives.
  19. Where can people find you online?
    (see above)
  20. Where might people find you on a Sunday afternoon?
    In the garden, raising up my little plant children and mercilessly uprooting bad actors like Bermuda grass and ground ivy.

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