An Interview with Hannah Thomassen, "Veriditas"

Can you discuss the meaning of the title of your poem "

The images in the last two stanzas of this poem are from an actual dream I had decades ago, right down to the scarabs and the jackhammers, those heels and green growing leaves. When I came across Hildegard of Bingen's notion of veriditas, I immediately understood.  Veriditas means "greening," but unless we understand it in the manner of Hildegard, that's too simple.   Hildegard's veriditas (or viriditas) means something like, but more than, this: the over-riding pulsating power of aliveness, the lushness of being and becoming, fecundity and growth, the flowing forthness of love, yearning, passion and creativity, the fruitfulness of relationships and spiritual life.  There is no direct English equivalent for veriditas, no word that captures its nuanced meanings and applications, its ineffable mystery and power. 

Who has been influential in your development as a poet?

The first summer after I started writing (very bad) poems I attended the wonderful annual week-long writer's conference in Eastern Oregon called Fishtrap.  There I met  poet, memoirist and novelist Bette Lynch Husted.  I somehow had the courage to ask her to be my teacher, and she had the gracious generosity to agree.  We spent the following year and a half or so in a one-on-one mentorship conducted almost entirely through email.  It was awesome, surpassed in its influence only by Life itself, and it left a lifelong friendship and a bunch of poetry in its wake. 

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find inspiration in anything that slaps me awake.   Suffering of all kinds, but not in the abstract.  Same for joy.  Water.  Age.  Mental Illness.  My dog.  Sex.  Rocks.  Spiritual unfolding.  Facebook. 

 What have you learned about the craft of writing poetry?

In a recent workshop with John Yau I suddenly, or finally, realized that if you listen, anything can be a prompt.  The mind makes connections between things, six random words, say, and there is always meaning in those connections.  I trust that.  And I've learned that every good poem is pretty much always 100% personal and 100% universal.