JEANANN VERLEE is an author, performance poet, editor, activist and former punk rocker who collects tattoos and wears polka dots. Her work has been published and is forthcoming in a variety of journals, including The New York Quarterly, Rattle, failbetter, kill author, and PANK, among others. Her poems have also been anthologized in publications such as Not A Muse: The Inner Lives of Women and His Rib: Poems Stories and Essays by Her. Verlee’s first full-length book of poems, Racing Hummingbirds, earned the Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medal in Poetry. Verlee won the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart. She is a poetry editor for Union Station Magazine and the Poets Portrait Project Anthology.
Verlee has represented New York City six times at the National Poetry Slam under two of the most highly-regarded poetry performance series in the nation: Urbana Poetry Slam and The louderARTS Project. Verlee was the highest-scoring individual poet at the 2008 National Poetry Slam Finals, was the 2009 NYC-Urbana iWPS Champion, and represented NYC-louderARTS at the 2010 Women of the World Poetry Slam. She is director of the Urbana Poetry Slam reading series in New York City, and serves as writing and performance coach for this three-time NPS Championship venue. She has performed and facilitated workshops at schools, theatres, bookstores, dive bars and poetry venues across North America.
Educated in theatre performance and creative writing, Verlee was co-author and performing member of national touring company, The Vortex: Conflict, Power, and Choice!, has been commissioned by universities for a number of guerrilla theatre events spotlighting domestic violence under MSCD’s Theatre for Social Change, and was a charter member of New York City’s annual Spoken Word Almanac Project. A fan of letter-writing campaigns and constructing protest signs, Verlee is also an ardent animal rights and humanitarian activist who has organized and participated in numerous social actions.
Her first poem was drafted in pencil on the inside cover of a collection of Grimm’s Fairy Tales at the age of seven. She won her first writing contest for a short story at the age of eleven and in the same year became the youngest recipient of Parade Magazine’s Young American Ambassadors prize for an essay contest. Hoping to echo S.E. Hinton’s young author milestone, Verlee was determined to write a novel by the age of sixteen. With three drafts completed by the autumn of her fifteenth year, she almost reached her goal. Instead, however, found herself blindsided by the insurmountable distraction of tattooed boys, dying her mohawk pink, and a life-altering diagnosis of bipolar disorder. A hardcopy of the unfinished manuscript remains in a fireproof safe in her studio apartment.
She lives in New York City with her best pal (a rescue pup named Callisto) and a pair of origami lovebirds. She believes in you.