An Air Force baby, I lived my younger years in the South—Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Much of my work is informed by this upbringing especially by the landscape and memory of the Blue Ridge Mountains, folklore and folk song, the people of these regions. Though I currently live in Minnesota, my mother’s and husband’s home, I find myself returning to the Southern mountains, shores, and hills in my writing, to the people of my youth, a mental journey out of the snow and cold. After retiring in 2016 from 40 years of teaching English and writing, my work turns more contemplative about the world, the spiritual, nature. Now able to immerse more fully in my own writing, I turned to the Twin Cities' community of poets and writers and even joined Facebook and am a Board member of Cracked Walnut and a part of The League of Minnesota Poets. I continue to work on publishing my work, submitting to journals and literary publications but leaning more towards working on my own poetry collections.My degrees are a B.A. in English (James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia); an M.A. in English (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota); and an M.F.A. in writing (Hamline University, St. Paul, Minnesota), where my capstone thesis, Sustenance, won the 2007 M.F.A. outstanding thesis in poetry--in it, my introductory essay addresses what sustains our lives, and then I intertwine the central thesis with poetry and recipes from friends and family. (I also enjoy cooking, especially Southern country and comfort foods.) Before retiring from full-time teaching, I taught in the Shenandoah Valley and in various schools here in the Midwest including Archbishop Brady High School, Inver Hills Community College, the Academy of Holy Angels, and Saint Thomas Academy. I continue to pursue part-time teaching gigs and am available for consulting or lecture work at literary centers and at schools. I live on a pond outside of the Twin Cities where I can watch wild turkeys, deer, and coyotes gathering for water, where birches creak in the forest.
I am a writer of poetry, inspired by the lyrics of many bards. A product of a fantastic array of teachers and mentors, mostly from Hamline University: Deborah Keenan, Patricia Francisco Weaver, Larry Sutphin, and Jim Moore, I honed my craft and continue to do so. Support for such work comes from the Twin Cities, offering such a wonderful array of writing and arts opportunities--Margaret Hasse's readings at Art Start in St. Paul (now defunct); Rain Taxi events with Eric Lorberer; the Loft in Minneapolis; Red Bird Chapbook venues; and Cracked Walnut readings founded by Satish Jayaraj. We still have independent bookstores that welcome writers and readings: Micawber's, Common Good Books, and Subtext in St. Paul, for example. These people and places have helped me or continue to help me share my voice.
As a child, I loved nursery rhymes and the sound of language. Reading and writing were the greatest things I ever learned. Distinctly, I remember the first time I shivered after reading literature that stirred my soul and my senses--T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" and the imagery of William Hurst's short story, "The Scarlet Ibis," both come to mind. I began to pen my own verses, bad love poems though they may have been at first as well as song lyrics. In 1976, along with several pioneering college graduates, I helped to write lyrics for a musical about the Shenandoah Valley, Shenandoah Song, which played at Melrose Caverns outside of Harrisonburg, Virginia. Rich imagery and luscious sound enrich my poetry, mostly poems in the lyrical genre. The natural world, family, loss, love, death, memory, and food are likely somewhere in my work. If you peruse a bit of my poetry on this site, I hope that it somehow resonates with you or that you simply have some response to it because poetry is one of the most human things we do.
I have two published chapbooks of poetry: Tommy (Red DragonFly Press) and Holy Comforter (Red Bird Chapbooks). Tommy is an elegiac booklet of poems about my little brother Thomas Matthew Pleasants who lost a sudden battle with cancer in his 40s. Holy Comforter, named after a grade school I attended in Charlottesville, Virginia, embraces the idea of what is indeed holy, comforting, and spiritual to me, this also being an appellation for the Holy Spirit, told from a Catholic school girl's point of view, I also explore the idea of growing up Catholic in the South. Both are available through this web site or through the respective publishers. In addition, my work has appeared in many notable journals and publications (see Published Works) including Perfect Dragonfly (Red DragonFly Press), The Saint Paul Almanac, and Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel.
Click here to read about the Donna Isaac Creative Writing Award.