Typus Orbis Universalis

Typus Orbis Universalis


I’m a writer, editor, and teacher, and I enjoy connecting with readers and other writers. On November 1, 2017, I was commissioned Alabama's Poet Laureate, for a four-year term. I grew up in Arkansas and have lived for many years in Alabama, although I’ve also lived abroad, in England and Romania, and have traveled extensively in Ireland and Greece. I’ve written two collections of poems, "Little Wanderer" (2016) a collection of road and travel poems, and "Bottle Tree" (2010), which focuses on my experiences as a southern woman. I’ve also written "Tell the World You’re a Wildflower," a collection of loosely interwoven short stories in the voices of southern women and girls. I love to put together collections as well, and I edited "Working the Dirt: An Anthology of Southern Poets," and co-edited, with Wendy Reed, "All Out of Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality," and "Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality," as well as "Belles’ Letters II: Contemporary Fiction by Alabama Women," co-edited with Don Noble. I’m currently working on a memoir-influenced book about Scott and Zelda biographer Sara Mayfield as well as a new collection of short stories.

Blog Posts

Below you'll find occasional blog posts, as the spirit moves me.

Blog Archive

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Far Cry from Cottondale

One of my favorite reading habits is finding books related to a travel destination. Reading in advance creates anticipation, and reading while I’m there gives me the satisfying frisson of recognizing landmarks “in real life” that I’ve just seen in a book.

On a recent trip to London, I took Muriel Spark’s A Far Cry from Kensington with me. The neighborhood of Kensington is near that of Bayswater, where we were staying, so I could imagine the main character of the book walking the same streets I was walking, along the Broad Walk in Hyde Park, past the Victoria and Albert Museum, or along Oxford Street or Notting Hill Gate. Even better, the narrator of the book, Mrs. Hawkins, a war-widowed but still-young woman living in 1950s London, works as an editor at several publishing houses and describes her neighbors, co-workers, and various authors with both affection and humor. There’s only one would-be author, an untalented poseur and generally mean guy (he intentionally puts mustard on a sausage roll and feeds it to a dog in a pub!) that she really dislikes, and she repeatedly calls him, to his face, a “pisseur de copie,” that is, “a urinator of journalist copy.” The book is full of wry observations and practical advice, which you can read more about at The Awl, here

With an e-reader, it’s become easy to download out-of-copyright books to read on your journey without carrying a suitcase full of old books. They’re generally free or nearly so.  I found the following to take with me electronically: Bohemia in London (1912), by Arthur Ransome, well before he became famous for his Swallows and Amazons series; The Fascination of London: Kensington (1903) by G. E. (Geraldine Edith) Mitton; The History of London (1894) by Walter Besant; Dickens’ London (1903) by Francis Miltoun (also author of Dumas’ Paris); and two collections of fiction, by E.M. Delafield, who wrote The Provincial Lady collection, and E. F. Benson, who wrote the Queen Lucia books.

Of course I didn’t have time to read all of these—I’d never have left the hotel!—but it was a treat to dip into them, sampling sections as they caught my attention. For contemporary “travel reading” of a sort, it was also informative and at times instructive to read the London papers provided daily by the hotel, for news on matters domestic and international.

Of the older books, the one I most enjoyed was Ransome’s Bohemia in London, and I found myself bookmarking page after page. Here are a few of my favorite quotations:

  • “I do not know quite what it is that leads artists and writers and others whose lives are not cut to the regular pattern, to leave their homes, or the existences arranged for them by their relations, for a life that is seldom as comfortable, scarcely ever as healthy, and nearly always more precarious.”
  • “It is odd to think of the days when a shilling dinner was beyond achievement, when a sandwich and a couple of bananas seemed a supper for a Shakespeare. Yet those were happy days, and had their luxuries.”
  • From the chapter “The Book-Shops of Bohemia”: “. . . the people who buy in the ordinary shops are disheartening. There is no spirit about them, no enthusiasm. You cannot sympathize with them over a disappointment nor smile your congratulations over a prize—they need neither. They are buying books for other people, not to read themselves. The books they buy are doomed, Christmas or birthday presents, to lie about on drawing-room tables. I am sorry for those people, but I am sorrier for the books. For a book is of its essence a talkative, companionable thing, or a meditative and wise; and think of the shackling monotony of life on a drawing-room table, unable to be garrulous, being uncut, and unable to be contemplative in the din of all that cackle.”

I’m still dipping into those books, even though I’m back home in Alabama, enjoying the memories of the streets I walked and the places I visited. London is indeed a far cry from Cottondale, but I can travel there any time in these pages.

Susan Cushman talks about my own book of travel poems at http://susancushman.com/traveling-the-world-with-poet-jennifer-horne/

Photo credit: The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, "In Kensington Gardens, London, England," 1901.  http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2007675568/

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Thank you for being here.  

Thanks especially to the Yeats Society, Ian Kennedy, and the Summer School, and to director Geraldine Higgins for the invitation to read. Thanks to Liber bookstore for stocking my book and to Margaret Raftery for handling sales. I’m delighted that my husband, Don, is here, and it’s wonderful to see our friends the poet Joan McBreen and her husband, Joe, as well as Mark Dawson, a poet and a friend of thirty years, all the way back to graduate school in Alabama. I’m very happy to see friends from previous years as well.

I first discovered the Yeats International Summer School when my husband brought a group of students from the University of Alabama on a summer program to Ireland, and we spent a weekend in Sligo. I was intrigued to learn about the school, and came back a couple of years later for a whole week. I guess I got hooked, and in a good way—this is my seventh time at the School!

So it’s a great pleasure to have the opportunity to read from this brand-new book, Little Wanderer, from Salmon Poetry.

My first book of poems, Bottle Tree, focused heavily on the American South, while this one ranges across a number of different countries. This second book, I believe, bears the influence of my studies in the Yeats School, which has expanded my knowledge of poetry as well as my vision of what poetry can do and be, as a result of the many fine lectures I’ve heard and seminars I’ve attended, with Patrick Crotty, Jonathan Allison, Bernard O’Donahue, Lauren Arrington, Helen Vendler, Lucy McDiarmid, and, this year, Rand Brandes.

Eudora Welty said that to comprehend one place is to understand all places better, and I think you could also say that to comprehend one poet, especially such a poet as Yeats, is to understand all poetry—including one’s own—better. That’s certainly been true for me.

So, on to my own.
Little Wanderer is made up of four sections, starting in southern Europe, going east to Romania and the Czech Republic, working north to England and then Ireland, and finally returning west, to home, which for me is the southern states of Arkansas and Alabama. I thought I’d read a sampler of poems, some from each section. These are, certainly, poems of travel, of adventures and encounters and surprises. I also hope that they are poems that raise questions of how to be in the world, of our responses and responsibilities. As an American writer I’m acutely aware of the influence of the U.S. government on world events, and of how I move around the world as an American citizen.

But I’ll begin with a more interior poem, the first poem in the book, “Principles of Flight.”

Principles of Flight

You ask what I know about it.
I gain momentum, am off
and afloat on currents.
Birds flip past on jaunty wings.

I have been practicing
the etiquette of the traveler,
the grace of the grateful guest
as she takes her leave.

Our backyard garden grows richly,
I know. Have you seen
the runway lights,
how they bud at dusk?

In the middle of goodbyes,
I still can see the blue hydrangeas,
full against the white brick porch
where flight began.

Here is the resolution
to my headstrong departure:
Leaving, I savor the thought
of return to our soft bed.


I closed with a poem written for my friend Gretchen McCullough when she was leaving Tuscaloosa to go to the American University in Cairo, where she still teaches:

A Poem for Leaving

                             —for Gretchen

The bright blue sky we woke to
proclaims: good weather for travelers.
Knowing you leave soon,
I search for a charm,
the stone/shell/bone/sign/word
to keep you safe under that other blue sky,
the one you travel to as if
on some magic flying carpet,
strong and wide enough to hold
your two hefty suitcases,
travel bag, light reading,
xeroxed grammar worksheets.

Do you, can you, know
what else you take with you?
We're under your fingernails,
lodged in your throat,
you've got this red dirt
running through your blood.
We know you won't forget us—
it's too late for that, even though
we're not on that massive yellow-pad list.
Take us, take this moment,
find a niche in the suitcase,
pull us out for luck, or comfort,
when you need it.
Travel’s coordinates are distance and time,
little things, really, small matters,
next to love’s bright lines.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Mother's Day Fable

A Mother’s Day Fable

by Jennifer Horne

A bunch of moms were sitting around having cocktails at the Afterlife Lounge, watching a beautiful sunset. They were fairly recent arrivals and still felt connected to life on Earth and the human calendar.
One mom said, “Did you all know tomorrow is Mother’s Day on Earth?”
There was a general sigh around the table. More drinks were ordered.
One of the more smart-mouthed moms said, “You know what I never liked about Mother’s Day? Burnt toast and runny eggs in bed!”
"For me it was hard rolls you could build a wall with,” said another. “Almost broke a tooth one Mother's Day!"
“Ohhh,” said a sweet mom. “But they were so adorable, bringing us breakfast in bed.”
“Yeah,” said the smart-mouthed mom. “I’ll grant you that. But it got old, pretending to like burnt toast and runny eggs.”
Yet another mom said, reflectively, “What I don’t like about it is all the fine Sundays in May I spent being sad about my own mother not being there. Twenty years’ worth, days I can’t get back. What a waste!”
The other mothers sipped their drinks and listened.
“I mean, now, with all we know”—the other moms nodded—“I can see that I could have held a party in her honor, or taken a hike, or handed out homemade chocolate chip cookies (never raisin cookies, because they are just a disappointment) to random strangers, or something to celebrate being alive, the gift of having been brought into the world and fed and taken care of, the gift of being loved.”
“Hey,” said smart-mouth. “Not all mothers are so great. Not all mothers feel the love.”
“I know,” said the mother, “and that is truly sad. But most of us muddled through all right, and I just wish I could tell the kids it’s all going to be okay.”
“Really? Are you sure of that?”
“Well, no, I’m not. Epistemologically speaking, I’m not even sure we’re having this conversation.”
Socrates, the bartender, chimed in. “I’m pretty sure you are. It’s the same conversation all you newly arrived moms have. But what do I know? I used to be a philosopher, and now I’m just a guy who drank hemlock, as far as most people on Earth are concerned.”
Warming up, he continued: “All you know when you’re there is that you’re there. You savor the moments as best you can, if you have any sense, and then something else happens.”
A mother who had not spoken yet said, “Something that used to help me when I missed my mother was to look through her eyes for a few minutes, or even a whole hour. I’d just imagine I was seeing what she’d see, and suddenly she’d be there with me, and I’d have a different perspective on the whole thing, and I’d feel loved.”
The other mothers smiled, imagining.  Their own mothers smiled, knowing. And all the mothers, back to the very beginning, smiled, remembering.

The End

Dodie Walton Horne, 1934-1994. Photo by Jim Few.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Elvis Sightings and Copyright Law

My Elvis sighting: reincarnated as a deer . . .

One evening, my husband and I were sitting around discussing copyright law. Maybe “wondering about” is the better phrase—copyright law is complicated and you probably should be sitting down when you try to figure it out. Our reason for even beginning to tangle with its complexities was that we’d been talking about an author, now gone, whose work we like, and we started getting curious about whether his stories were in the public domain and could be collected and published.

The U.S. Copyright Office’s information in the “Copyright Basics” section of the website was pretty clear about public domain:  “Essentially, all works first published in the United States before 1923 are considered to be in the public domain in the United States. The public domain also extends to works published between 1923 and 1963 on which copyright registrations were not renewed.” 

The law gets more complicated in regard to later works, says the Copyright Office guide:

“The term of copyright protection depends upon the date of creation. A work created on or after January 1, 1978, is ordinarily protected by copyright from the moment of its creation until 70 years after the author's death.
For works made for hire, anonymous works and pseudonymous works (unless the author's identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the duration of copyright is 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.
For works created, published or registered before January 1, 1978, or for more detailed information, you may wish to refer to the public domain section of this guide.”

The public domain section sends you to a great little chart. The law makes a distinction between date of creation and date of publication and also takes into account when the author died and a set period of time after that. We finally decided that it’s possible we might be able to collect and publish at least some of that author’s work, so that evening’s discussion was tabled (or couched, since we were now sitting in the living room) until we wanted to look further into the project.

Looking at the website though, had yielded a couple of unexpected gems in the Frequently Asked Questions section. Among the standard questions you’d expect—“How do I protect my idea?” and “How do I copyright a name, title, slogan or logo?”—was “Can I get a star named after me and claim copyright to it?” Apparently this question, which had never occurred to me, is common enough that it’s listed among the FAQs. I imagined the hundreds (thousands? more?) Americans who are longing not only to have a star named after them but to protect the naming of it with copyright. Maybe NASA could make use of this apparent nascent desire among the populace to be celestially recognized.

Better even than that, though, was question number ten of twelve:  “Can I protect my sighting of Elvis?” Sadly, you cannot. But there’s a glimmer of hope:

“Copyright law does not protect sightings. However, copyright law will protect your photo (or other depiction) of your sighting of Elvis. File your claim to copyright online by means of the electronic Copyright Office (eCO). Pay the fee online and attach a copy of your photo. For more information on registering a copyright, see SL-35. No one can lawfully use your photo of your sighting, although someone else may file his own photo of his sighting. Copyright law protects the original photograph, not the subject of the photograph.” 

The intersection of Elvis sightings and copyright law has got to be one of the great juxtapositions of pop culture and legal language, and the wording of the answer to the question bears a bit of explicating. Nowhere is there a hint of doubt or condescension about the veracity of your Elvis sighting; for the purposes of law, the answer doesn’t question the sighting. It even reassures you that you have the right for “your photo (or other depiction)” to be protected from unlawful use.

If, however, your grandmother experienced an Elvis sighting and you wish to reproduce her photograph, you could run into trouble, as the plaintive question “My local copying store will not make reproductions of old family photographs. What can I do?” suggests. The answer to that question is found in a section with a catchy title that sounds like a country music song: “Can I Use Someone Else’s Work? Can Someone Else Use Mine?” (I can’t copyright that title, by the way, so if it inspires you, knock yourself out.)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The View from the Signing Table

I’ve had four book events in the past four weekends, with two more to come in October. Pausing to reflect on where I’ve been before I go forward, I’m thinking of the places I traveled to: Memphis & Little Rock, Columbus, Georgia, Fairhope, Alabama, and Nashville. I feel so lucky to have gotten to a point where I get to go places and talk about my books in particular and writing in general: what a gift. As a budding writer, I wrote a poem in which I described my hope of achieving “a place on the shelf,” and now I have.

I’ve been publishing books since 2003 but I find I still get excited about getting to wear an author badge and get up in front of people to read and talk. When I’m nervous about my performance or afraid no one will show up, I always remind myself that there will be at least one person who gets something he or she needs, whether I hear about it or not, and that at least one good thing will come out of my being there. I’ve never been wrong yet.

As I think about the past month, it’s details and moments that stick in my mind: the woman at a salon in Memphis who choked up a little bit talking about one of my stories and what the main character meant to her, and how I choked up a little bit hearing her and responding. In Little Rock, at the Farmers’ Market, I read my story “Sandra” about a young writer who develops a kind of friendship with a homeless woman via the baked goods she buys her every day, and as we sat around afterwards a man came up asking if we had any work he could do because he was hungry, and no one did but I asked if he liked granola bars and when he said yes gave him some.

In Columbus I met friends for a drink and then zipped off to the public library to hear two poets read, poets whose work I hadn’t known before but loved, and loved that pure sitting-and-listening feeling that sometimes slips away in the conference buzz of arrangements and acquaintanceships. An elderly, physically bent couple sat on the front row of the reading, having gotten themselves there at night when it was probably not easy for them to drive, or to walk from the parking lot to the auditorium, but they were there to be fed by poetry, so it was worth it. I was having dinner in the hotel lobby afterwards when another writer came in and I asked her to join me, and over wine and flatbread pizza we discovered how much we had in common and I knew I’d made a new friend. The next day I was asked to join a discussion panel right before it started, and even though I hadn’t prepared I was still okay with it: I had things to say. In fact I’ve been preparing all my life.

In Fairhope I sat in a friend’s cottage and listened to a song that had been written from one of my stories for the Trio project. A song. Written by Mary Gauthier from a story I wrote. I’m pretty much still tingling. (You can listen to it at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3WCZ_7EeDg). At the Fairhope festival of art and books I wandered over into the birding festival going on next door and saw a presentation on owls—the white-faced barn owl named Luna, so unearthly looking, is going to find her way into a poem or story, I’m sure.

And this past weekend in Nashville, I came full circle and was on a panel with a writer who lives in Memphis and would’ve been at that salon a month ago if she hadn’t been teaching that night. Our panel was at the same time as Pat Conroy’s session—the second book festival at which this has happened—so I was grateful anyone showed up at all. The great thing about being on at the same time as Pat Conroy is that you then get to sit at the signing table at the same time as him, and watch how he greets every single person freshly, totally at ease and totally himself and enjoying being there, talking with his readers and getting his picture taken with them, cracking a joke, hearing the hard stories people bring him. When you’re sitting next to Pat Conroy at the signing table and he takes money from his wallet and asks you to go buy your book and sign it to him, and you’ve been admiring his work since you were fourteen and saw Conrack at the Heights Theatre in Little Rock and then read the book it was made from, The Water Is Wide, you don’t need anything more. Nor do you need a better model for hard work and bigheartedness, as you go forward with your writer’s life.

(My thanks to Sonja Livingston for pointing out our amusing view of the backside of the sculpture “Victory” at the Legislative Plaza in Nashville.)