Professor Angela Shannon grew up around art and continues to create it and teach it today
Culture | Ashley Haynes
Angela Shannon has taught at Bethel since 2006 and is a published poet. | Courtesy of Gustavus Adolphus
Raised by a musical father and an artistic mother in Tampa, Fla., it is no wonder that professor Angela Shannon grew up to be creative herself. She is a published poet with her own book, is an advisor for the Coeval — Bethel’s literary journal — and has had her poems turned into a script and acted out in a play. She now teaches creative writing and poetry classes at Bethel as a professor of English. But it wasn’t always her plan to be a writer.
Shannon’s first degree is in theater from Florida State University. But after traveling in Chicago, performing plays at middle schools, Shannon started to think she should follow a different path. “I fell in love with the writing part of it and then realized I had always been writing, even for fun.”
After immersing herself in the large community of poets in Chicago and attending poetry events, she started writing poetry herself. “I wanted to learn how to write, to learn the craft,” Shannon said. “I realized I wanted to study it.” She then went back to school and received a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C.
Even though she may not have as much time as she would like to dedicate to writing between teaching and being a mother, she keeps a journal during the school year to record thoughts, ideas and images that she may want to use in future poems. “I don’t necessarily put pressure on myself to find time to create,” she said, “but I’m always jotting things down. I feel like I’m always working things out intuitively.” During the summers, Shannon takes time to type, revise and polish the ideas into poems. But when she does have hard-set deadlines, such as her poetry readings, she always tries to create something fresh. “I try to create something new even if the audience hasn’t heard me before," she said. "Readings help a lot. They force me to write new things.”
Shannon’s poems have themes of people, history, community and culture that are character-driven and narrative. “I use what I learned in theater in my writing,” Shannon said. She tries to connect with the world around her in her writing, using everyday events and moments. Gathering leaves in the fall once led her to a new idea. “A couple hundred years back, it would have been work and labor,” she said. “It’s a historical perspective. I can enjoy collecting them, but I am aware in some ways how far we have come, and I can have this moment. The past is a part of our present, but the future is a part of our present as well.”
Susan Brooks, chair of Bethel’s English department, said, “One of the things we love about Angela is she has a really thoughtful perspective. She also has a very gentle spirit, and she is compassionate.”