Two AAN Papers Produce Poets

An Isthmus editor and NewCity circulation manager each publish first book.

American poet Archibald MacLeish once wrote: “To separate journalism and poetry, therefore — history and poetry — to set them up at opposite ends of the world of discourse, is to separate seeing from the feel of seeing, emotion from the acting of emotion, knowledge from the realization of knowledge.”

Tenaya Darlington, feature editor of Madison, Wis.-based Isthmus, doesn’t need to separate them. She can have both.

Darlington released her debut collection, “Madame Deluxe” (Coffee House Press) in August after winning last year’s National Poetry Series, which annually publishes five book-length poetry manuscripts (48 to 64 pages) by U.S. poets through participating trade, university, or small press publishers. The book has been well received by critics, who call the poet-journalist’s work “memorable,” (Publishers Weekly), “howling funny, as only dead-on-the-mark observations can be” (Kirkus Review) and “gracefully written” (Minneapolis Star Tribune).

The 28-year-old Darlington has been preparing for the book since she was a child. According to a 1998 profile that appeared in the Madison daily paper Capital Times, by the time she reached the third grade, Darlington was already submitting fiction and poetry to the New Yorker and other high-profile magazines. The hordes of rejection slips that followed were often laced with advice and encouragement for the ambitious youngster. As she grew up, she memorized poetry for her allowance.

“That’s what I’ve done my whole life,” Darlington told AAN News. “Strict, hardcore academics, almost from birth.”

Despite her move from academics to the world of a working journalist, Darlington hasn’t let her poetry suffer. In fact, she thinks poetry and journalism complement each other nicely. Newspaper deadlines force her to write regularly, which keeps her fresh, she said. And interviews often inspire great poetic ideas.

She also points out that her job doesn’t leave her so exhausted that she can’t write when the mood strikes. “It’s not like I’m doing manual labor,” she said.

A second AAN-member employee has also recently published a book of his poetry. In May, NewCity Magazine Circulation Manager Charles W. Willett, Jr., a.k.a. Chaz, released a collection of erotic and romantic poetry, “Imani Kuumba Umoja” (Burning Sands Entertainment). He decided to publish a book of his poetry because people attending his poetry slams would often ask him if he had a book for sale. He was tired of telling them he didn’t.

Willett doesn’t mix work and poetry. At work, Willett said, he is Charles the circulation manager. After work, he’s Chaz.

“I separate my professional life from my personal life,” Willett said. “I’ve always had that dichotomy.”

As an example of the dichotomy, Willett described his high school and college years when he played football and wrote poetry. It shocked people, he said, that a man the size of an NFL linebacker would recite prose about love and romance.

Darlington will be reading on Oct. 21-22 at the Northwest Bookfest in Seattle and Nov. 11 at the Hudson Valley Writer’s Center in Sleepy Hollow, NY. A profile of “Chaz” will be available Sept. 15 on

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