Faculty Publications: Troubling the Line with Poetry | Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
University of Pittsburgh

Faculty Publications: Troubling the Line with Poetry

Jenny Johnson

Lecturer in English

Lecturer Jenny Johnson was honored to be one of 55 poets included in Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics, the first anthology of its kind, edited by TC Tolbert and Trace Peterson and published by Nightboat Books in 2013.

Jenny is also a recipient of a 2014 Investing in Professional Artists Grant ($10,000) from The Pittsburgh Foundation to support the completion of a first manuscript of poems. The poems in her book-in-progress titled In Full Velvet are about queer desire, love, making visible trans* bodies in the “natural” world, the struggle to recover lost LGBT lineage, imagination, and possibility.

The manuscript’s title poem “In Full Velvet” is an allusion to the soft fuzz that forms on the antlers of white-tailed deer during mating season. After reading Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity by Bruce Bagemihl, Jenny learned that some bucks never lose this velvet; these deer are called velvet horns. This particular poem engages many different bodies of knowledge to include varied perceptions on what kinds of bodies are considered “normal” or “natural,” while also addressing a lover. When writing this poem, Jenny interviewed a taxidermist and incorporated speech by hunters that she found on message boards, calling velvet horn deer “shirkers,” “antlered does,” and “raggedy horn freaks.” While working on this poem, she also engaged ideas from queer theorist Judith Butler’s Bodies that Matter and neurologist V. S. Ramachandran’s Phantoms in the Brain.

In 2011, she won the Beloit Poetry Journal’s Chad Walsh Prize for her sonnet crown “Aria,” seven interlocking meditations on the relationships between sounds and bodies, which then went on to be published in The Best American Poetry 2012. She has also received awards and scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

After earning a Master of Teaching degree at the University of Virginia, she taught public school for several years in the Bay Area. She earned her MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson College. She began teaching at the University of Pittsburgh in 2010.

Currently, Jenny is a lecturer in the Department of English and a GSWS affiliated faculty member. In the fall, she will teach Seminar in Composition: Gender Studies within a new Academic Learning Community for incoming first-year students called Sexuality in Social Context.




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