Brit Washburn celebrates the beautiful mess 

The Wanderer

Brit Washburn sees her poems as a way of being in the world. "I write to salvage something of my experiences, to determine what's important and to celebrate or mourn." Influenced by Montaigne, her poems speak to love and art, which she sees as the ultimate subject.

After beginning her creative pursuits as a dancer, Washburn transitioned to creative writing at Interlochen, a performing arts high school in Michigan. A wanderer at heart, she moved to Iowa after graduation, where she hung around with students of the infamous Iowa Writers' Workshop. "I was an Iowa groupie," she said, hanging posters of poets on her walls instead of rock stars. Drawn to the literary epicenter of New York City, she continued her education at the New School and studied with poets like Sekou Sundiata, an influence very different from the masculine Midwestern poetry of her past.

Caught between the worlds of academia and real life, Washburn traveled to Paris to work in fashion, where she struggled to maintain the romantic notion of the city with the reality of hard work and long hours. Escaping the bright lights of the big city, Washburn returned to Michigan, married a poet, and the two moved to the woods where she spent four years reading and writing. "It was the most authentic experience for me as a writer, more so than the world of academia. All the work goes on when you are on your own."

A job offer from a university in Hawaii came in the middle of a Michigan winter, and Washburn and her husband leaped at the opportunity. At the East-West Center in Honolulu, she studied comparative religion, Buddhism, and yoga. However, after six years Washburn realized, "It was someone's else's paradise. I missed the human history in Hawaii, where everyone is happy and everything is so beautiful and there is no real reason to make art."

In 2005, Washburn relocated to Charleston with her family. Continuing to pursue her education, she is currently enrolled in the low-residency program at Goddard in Vermont and is working on a memoir tentatively titled A Year of One's Own. Her wanderlust is for now contained, and she has found a home in the Lowcountry's literary world. She has recently taken on the role of editor with the debut publication of Re:Union, In Print & In Person, a loose leaf literary journal. The collection of poems and art focuses on the theme of "union" (marriage, sex, math, the healing of a wound, or a political party), with the intention to (as stated in the introduction) "bring together long-lost and far-flung comrades in art — on the page and in the flesh."

Washburn is taking over as chair of the programs committee for the Poetry Society of South Carolina, booking poets for the PSSC reading series. She's a featured reader at the Pour House's monthly singer/songwriter night, where poets read between the sets, and she's been featured at Monday Night Poetry and Music (formerly Monday Night Blues) at East Bay Meeting House.

Washburn says her literary sensibilities have evolved over time. She is moving away from her minimalist style and becoming expansive and inclusive. Attempting to gather life up as it is instead of making her experiences fit into some sort of controlled shape and space, her poems are getting bigger and longer as a result. "I am celebrating the beautiful mess of experience."


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