Jannie M Dresser

Poet & Writer
Jannie M. Dresser is a poet and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She co-founded and publishes the Bay Area Poets Seasonal Review with Marvin R. Hiemstra, and writes a regular column at www.examiner.com about the SF poetry scene.

Born in an Army hospital at Fort Belvoir, Alexandria, Virigina, Jannie was a real deal: her parents were only charged $3 for laundry services. Dresser spent most of the first year of her life in Germany while her dad helped reconstruct the war-torn country in Munich and Nuremberg. She cried in a Venetian gondola and camped out in southern France yet remembers nothing of this glorious travel! She has vowed ever since to remember everything about life and uses writing as the tool for doing so.

Dresser moved with her parents and older brother to the San Joaquin Valley and her mother's hometown of Fresno, California. Her first job out of high school was in a peach packing house in Clovis, which was followed by a stint in a factory manufacturing safety belts for automobiles. Her poetry chapbook, Ancestor Worship, is based on growing up in the late 1950s and 1960s in this agricultural community, and her current manuscript chronicles the working life.

Liberated at 25 when she arrived--a green girl--in the San Francisco Bay Area to p
ursue a career in publishing; she was hired as assistant-to-the-publisher at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and for eight years she learned the graphics trade at Archetype Typographers in Berkeley, setting type for many of the area's premier literary and political publications, including Ishmael Reed's and Al Young's Yardbird Reader, Nathaniel Mackey's Hambone, the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, Nicaraguan Perspectives, Plexus (a feminist newspaper), the California Workers' Compensation Reporter, News from Native California, Children's Advocate, the Sierra Club's Yodeler, and many other periodicals and books. She served as managing editor at Wilderness Press and was the periodicals coordinator for Berkeley's famed Cody's Bookstore.

Throughout many of these years, Dresser also worked freelance as a publications manager and helped many small businesses and individuals get their work into print and out into the world. She has also taught poetry and basic writing skills in a number of local colleges, community centers, and in Mexico. She founded the Fresh Ink poetry group which continues to meet after 20 years. She earned her BA in English at California State University Fresno, and an MFA in Creative Writing for her novel, Fresno, at Mills College, Oakland, California, in 1991.

Dresser is grateful to live in the vibrant and culturally-diverse SF Bay Area where she is a very active participant in its poetry community.

Notable Emerson Quotes

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The Tug of Egypt

A Poem for Passover

We all have our Egypts. Mine sprouts mirages

in old sand. Pressed into leaving, I see
tethered camels promised a quenched thirst.

In this night scented by Nile, our tomb
fills with sacrifice; still, this land
of first births is what I know. Some of us can’t see

clear to leaving it, to wander
through a parted sea and storm of red,
for chance encounters with milk and manna.

I cling to Egypt the way a horse craves
its bridle, the way the nail brings the hammer down.

Why give up the solace of the lash,
the rudiments of bricklaying,
when what may lie in wait
is a land full of lizards and ravenous wasps?

Here are monuments we’ve etched in stone,
carved intricate wounds, statues
rinsed in brine; are these not gods visible

and whole, who make the muck and mire
of floods seem burdens worth endurance?
I’m no Pharoah, no visionary Joseph;

perhaps untimely deaths (starvations,
long days flicked by whips) are preferable
to a desert litany of stings and bruises.

Can we trust a covenant scratched out
on dust-blind roads by renegades who stutter?
This clutch of leather strap I hang on to

is a kind of comfort. Standing in a rain of locusts,
I wonder can the plagues be waited out
that come in droves?

And the bread.
Our bread is not yet risen,
though I am being urged
to go.

Jannie M. Dresser, copyright 2008

Bard Briefings

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