Lee Ann Brown
St. John’s Professor Inspires Emerging Writers
Lee Ann Brown, M.F.A., has personally experienced the “transformative” power of poetry. Fashioning evocative phrases and bringing them to life on the page is a craft she enjoys sharing with her students at St. John’s University.
“Poetry offers unparalleled opportunities for capturing — and intensifying — the experience of living,” said Brown, an Associate Professor of English in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “It’s wonderful to see the way expressing and sharing their feelings awakens a shared sense of understanding among students in the classroom.”
As powerful as poetry is, Brown observed, its impact is especially compelling at St. John’s. “The University’s students come from across the country and all over the world,” she said. “That diversity brings enormous variety to the insights and experiences they communicate in their work.”
St. John’s focus on Academic Service-Learning enlivens Brown’s undergraduate and graduate poetry workshops. She helps students to incorporate volunteer activities at local churches, community centers, educational institutions, museums and nursing homes. Engaging in service as well, Brown uses poetry to help strengthen the literacy and communications skills of young learners at schools throughout New York City.
Arriving at St. John’s as an adjunct professor in 1996, Brown became a full-time faculty member in 2000. Her multidisciplinary approach to poetry is influenced by her background in songwriting and a-cappella singing, which she has performed in her home state of North Carolina. Brown returns every summer to participate in projects such as the French Broad Institute (of Time & the River) and the Children’s Arts in the Mountains Program.
Born in Japan, Brown earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Brown University. Her poetry collection In the Laurels, Caught received the 2012 Fence Modern Poets Series Award. This spring, Carolina Wren Press will release Crowns of Charlotte. Wesleyan Press published another collection, The Sleep That Changed Everything, in 2003. Her first book, Polyverse (Sun & Moon Press, 1999), was honored with the New American Poetry Series Award. Brown also has received fellowships from a variety of arts organizations.
Brown draws upon her broad experience to keep her students engaged in and out of the classroom. Each semester, she organizes a reading from a visiting poet. She also collaborates with the University’s Department of Fine Arts to promote the connection between poetry and other forms of creative expression. “Enabling students to explore a wide range of approaches,” she said, “becomes a platform for freely expressing themselves in class.”
Photo credit A.L. Nielson