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about Deborah

Deborah Keenan profile

photo by Emily Cook

I’m a poet and visual artist, a professor in The Creative Writing Programs of Hamline University, and I’ve taught at The Loft, a Center for Writers, for over thirty years. I grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota, on a little dead-end street, on three acres, and that landscape, surrounded by Nine Mile Creek, and by protected parkland and forest, appears in different ways in all of my books. Other landscapes, from my early life, the island of Corfu, Scotland, and Hawaii, sometimes come back to me through image and dream and memory.

I attended Macalester College, worked in Minnesota’s Writers and Artists in the Schools Program, and later ran that program for COMPAS, a community arts organization. I worked in public schools with other artists and writers when America knew it was worth spending money on the arts in honor of art and desegregation efforts. I was blessed to teach smart and remarkable older folks at the Jewish Community Center and at Little Sisters of the Poor. My careers have been eclectic, but tied with common thread: a steady commitment to language, poetry, different communities, students, and my own writing life. After COMPAS I was managing editor at Milkweed Editions, a great independent press located in Minneapolis, where I worked for the amazing Emilie Buchwald, co-founder of Milkweed, for four years. I taught once a year with my friend, Jon Hassler, at St John’s University. I spent years as a faithful adjunct professor at The University of St. Thomas, the University of Minnesota, and at Hamline University, where I finally found my long-time teaching base. During my many years at Hamline, I founded the Laurel Poetry Collective, with 22 other working poets and artists. Our various collaborations and anthologies can be seen on other pages of this website. All the places I’ve taught have connected me with talented and beautiful colleagues, and the extraordinary variety of students I’ve taught for forty years have given me connections I value and honor throughout the artistic community in Minnesota and beyond.

I’ve made my way as teacher and poet and feel daily gratitude and joy as I see my remarkable students make their own ways inside many artistic communities. I’ve been fortunate to receive three fellowships and several grants that allowed me to work on some of my books in a more daily way, while helping to support my family. I have four beautiful children, a great son-in-law, and two gorgeous grandchildren, Aisling and Ezra. I am married to Stephen Seidel, Director of Programs and Strategic Design for Habitat for Humanity International.

Right now, I am working on new collages, and recently completed my newest poetry manuscript, The Saint of Everything. My new book, From Tiger to Prayer, is in its third printing, from broadcraft press, a handmade book which features some of my writing ideas, and a few visions of some of my collages. Extraordinary artists Meghan Maloney-Vinz and Kate Shuknecht, along with Julia Jensen, created this book. My other new book, that came out in late December, 2013, is called  so she had the world. It is a collaboration with painter and poet Susan Solomon, 12 poems, 12 paintings, and was published by Red Bird Chapbooks. All Red Bird Chapbooks are available at Red Bird’s site and publisher Dana Hoeschen’s website is wonderful to browse through.

Some ways I see my life are visible in my collections of poetry. Some ways I see life are visible in my collage work. Some ways I see life are visible only to my students, who have been my companions in honor of writing for so many years.