Phenomenal Poet: Hannah Dierdorff
Reported by Cara Vincent
Few college students wake up before the sun rises. George Fox University (GFU) senior Hannah Dierdorff does so almost every morning to write poetry.
“I try to write every day. But not every day. The dream would be to write every morning,” Dierdorff said.
Dierdorff’s journey to becoming a poet began as most epic journeys do: by reading about a strong female figure when she was eleven years old.
“When I was eleven I read ‘Emily of New Moon,’” Dierdorff said. “The character is an 11-year-old girl who writes poetry and I related to her a lot because of her imagination and love of nature. I decided I wanted to be like her in every way possible and that is how it began.”
That journey will be continuing on the other side of the nation next year in Charlottesville, Va. Dierdorff will be attending University of Virginia’s Master of Fine Arts Program in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry. The program is fully funded and one of the top in the nation.
As part of the two-year program, she will be participating in writing workshops, writing a book-length thesis of poetry, and teaching undergraduate courses in her second year.
She will not only be studying in one of the finest programs under some of the finest living poets, such as former Poet Laurette Rita Dove, but the program is nestled about 30 miles from Shenandoah National Park. This is the perfect location for Dierdorff, who seeks the peace and unity of God’s creation.
“A lot of my poems are conversations to God or about God,” said Dierdorff.
She went on speaking poetically saying, “I believe poetry has the power to continually re-shape reality. The words we speak and hear continually form the ways we think and act, so understanding that relationship between language and justice or injustice gives poetry a sort of moral imperative.”
Essential to her journey as a poet have been GFU Professor Bill Jolliff and her dad.
Dierdorff shared that “My dad taught me my love of language and words. We would make stories together. We would play rhyming games. He primarily sees the world in metaphor and explains the world in metaphor.”
“Bill is probably the biggest influence in my writing life so far,” said Dierdorff.
She said she has a hard time summarizing why because there are so many reasons, but said, “He is the best teacher I have ever had. Hands down. He has been so intentional about encouraging me and challenging me in my writing,” Dierdorff said.
“He saw more in me than I saw in myself. He models how I want to be as an academic, as a teacher, as a poet. In the way that he integrates his faith into all those things,” Dierdorff explained.
She is expecting feeling lonely after moving, because of being away from the family and friends who she is close to. “I know I will be lonely at times, but I don’t think I am scared of that anymore. That is part of what it means to grow, to embrace periods of loneliness,” she said.
She then expressed the self-doubt almost every student is bound to feel, saying through laughter, “Part of me is kind of a little scared I am going to get there and they are going to realize they made a mistake. But I know that is not rational,” said Dierdorff.
Most of all, Dierdorff is excited: “I’m excited to be part of an artistic community. Meet other people who are doing what I’m doing and be inspired by them. To be surprised,” she said.
She will be moving across the country and putting herself in a different context and in different situations outside of her comfort zone. She will be pursuing poetry full-time.
“Poetry’s goal is to grieve the current state of things and also give hope,” said Dierdorff.
Hopefully, Dierdorff will continue to do just that and emulate all that she has loved in those who have taught her to love poetry and encouraged her pursuit of it.
Come August, Dierdorff will be waking up as dawn breaks to examine herself and the world through poetry.