Thursday, January 02, 2014

What biblical characters were thinking: my interview with Exodus author Janet Ruth Heller

by Zinta Aistars

My interview with author Janet Ruth Heller will air at 7:50 a.m., 9:50 a.m., and 4:29 p.m. on Friday, January 2, 2014, on WMUK 102.1 FM on your dial or listen to the interview on the link below:

Kalamazoo, Michigan, native Janet Ruth Heller is a writer, playwright, and literary critic. In her third book of poetry called Exodus, Heller fills in the gaps in the lives of characters in the Bible, especially women. Exodus can be found at Kazoo Books on Parkview Avenue in Kalamazoo, Michigan News Agency, and

Heller says she’s been working on this collection since the 1970’s. At first, Heller had mixed the biblical poems in with secular poems and tried to publish a book, but publishers wouldn’t take it on. Then, Heller separated her secular poems into what is now her book Folk Concert and put her biblical poems into this new work Exodus. Heller explains why she chose "Exodus" for her title:
We often get in situations in life that don't work out. Maybe a relationship with another person doesn't work out--whether it's a friendship, or a marriage, or a working relationship. Sometimes a job doesn't work out. There are all sorts of changes in life that we have to make and I see these all sort of encompassed in the notion of Exodus. That there are times when we have to leave a situation. We have to get out of there and do something new. And it's difficult, but it's the way that we grow.
Because Exodus spans about 40 years of work, there are poems that empathize with different characters in different stages of their lives. Heller says she was drawn to many female characters in the Bible. She would try to imagine what their lives were like, but also what they would be like today. For example, Heller wrote ...

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