Jeannette Allée
Poet & Writer
(Previous Bio)

I grew up in small towns in the West, in the Colorado mountains and blonde prairies near the Garden of the Gods, and in the rolling wheatfields of northern Idaho. In springtime, the vibrancy of the undulating green made me queasy with delight. I came from a large, hardworking, somewhat goofy family. Once when my mother accidentally burned the roast, she served us the slightly charred rumphf saying, "Eat up everybody — it's just physics!" While educational opportunities were limited (we learned to shoot rifles as a component of 8th grade Earth Science), it only made me thirstier with curiosity, made me want to go out and get life by the scruff of the neck. So after high school (I actually graduated on the Blackfeet reservation in Browning, Montana), I decided to work my way around the world.

I'd travel to a place I knew little about, where I knew no-one, and set about finding work and an abode. I sold black mud on the Dead Sea, taught English in Japan and Taiwan, and swabbed the deck on a German freighter for passage across the Pacific. I learned that the secret to the hula is not in the hips, never to touch a Buddhist on the topknot, and when Indonesians ask, "Where are you going?", it's like our "How are you?" — nobody necessarily wants to know the truth. I was also deported from Australia (for working without a permit) by a grown man wearing shorts and kneesocks. One would have thought the authorities could have secured an entire pair of pants for the occasion.

While I read a reasonable amount growing up (from Wilde to Didion), being a writer seemed like something out of another era, of puffy-sleeved blouses and inkwells. I wrote a bit but mostly I lived a writer's life — exploring, observing, and loving up the "earld." Eventually, I studied film and creative writing in Olympia, Washington. The Evergreen State College's innovative, interdisciplinary programs are much like graduate school but without the sense of competition. As for studying film, I never quite got over my Keatonian (both Buster and Diane) apprehension towards the technical, and I didn't care for the way my mindset changed. As an independent filmmaker one always has to make a mental note of each person they meet as their expertise might come in handy at a later date. A terrible way to think of humans, you know, how someone might help you in the future. My first short story was published during that time (although written ten years earlier), and I was paid the equivalent of $800 — a sumptuous amount for me as I've always lived on so little.

When I moved back to Seattle I began writing and performing social critique monologues. I loved the frolicsome immediacy of theater, the warmth and generosity of the audience, and sometimes I was struck by how vulnerable they looked sitting there in the dark. (You could always see who'd had a bad day and who'd had a bad life.) After a few years of performing, I was also pleased to stop. (I think it helps if, as a performer, you have that sort of drive where you require the world to love you — I don't. And I think that's healthy.)

I've returned to writing poetry and fiction. While I don't believe that art has to have meaning beyond how any individual might respond to it, I crave connections beyond the pull of rhythm and sound. My writing is an exploration, with both reverence and irreverence, into what it means to be human. Granted, this is coming from a grown woman who still somehow feels that anyone taller than her is automatically older.

Jeannette Allée, Poet & Writer