5 Burning Questions with JP Allen

As well as feature our future readers, we also wanted to check in with folks who have read for us over the last 5 years. JP Allen read for us 2017 – read what he has been up to below!

What have you been up to since reading with us at Writers & Words? How has the writing been going?

After finishing a poetry MFA at JHU in 2017, I stayed and taught in Baltimore for a year, I moved from Baltimore to Durham, NC, in 2018. I attended a few writing residencies and conferences, but my writing’s been slow. I’m currently working in marketing for User Interviews, a tech startup; sounds like a run-of-mill “day job,” but I actually really enjoy it, and am very thankful to have work during the pandemic.

What are you working on right now (writing or otherwise (nothing is a valid answer as well))?

Honestly, not much. It’s a weird time. I have been translating a few poems from Spanish into English as part of an upcoming anthology of Costa Rican poets. The editor assigns each poet in the anthology to a different translator, which I think is a great way to get more folks involved and to keep the translations as stylistically diverse as the originals.

What has been your favorite Quarantine Read thus far?

The Nickel Boys. I’ve never really tried to read multiple works by the same author in a row, and I thought I’d give it a shot with Colson Whitehead because I like his books so much. I just started The Intuitionist—really interesting to read someone’s earlier work after their most recent, most highly-praised book.

How would you describe the writing community where you live in just a few words?

Honestly, I wish I knew more about it! I’ve been to a couple of readings, but I was keeping to myself even pre-quarantine. I do want to shout out one arts space in Durham: The Mothership, a coworking space, shop, and event venue (one of whose founders is the poet Megan Bowser) that hosts occasional Art Parties—includes readings, but artists in all genres share their work.

What would be a few words of advice you would give someone wanting to get into any writing community?

Just go to stuff and if there’s a moment where it feels natural to start a conversation or participate in a reading, go for it, but don’t feel like you need to push things or “network.”


JP Allen’s poems and translations have appeared in The Offing, Southern Humanities Review, Waxwing, Tinderbox, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA in poetry from The Johns Hopkins University and scholarships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He is an Assistant Poetry Editor at Narrative Magazine.

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