Spring City poet, artist garners honors from Utah Arts Council
SPRING CITY—Sue Jensen-Weeks’ poetry is a reflection of her life. And despite her protests to the contrary, it’s been an interesting one.
As a sixth-generation Spring City resident, Weeks’ roots are burrowed deep in the clay Sanpete soil. It’s a heritage she is proud of and one that provides fuel for her work.
But Weeks has also spent parts of her life in much farther locales. The daughter of Melvin Lamont Jensen, a research scientist who got his PhD from the University of Utah, Weeks has lived as far afield as Oslo, Norway and Edinburgh, Scotland.
During her early childhood, the family lived in Salt Lake City and visited their relatives in Spring City and Ephraim often. Weeks describes her mother, Kathleen Paulsen Jensen, who came from Fairview and Ephraim, as “quite creative.”
“I was very fortunate to have a mother who encouraged the study of arts and music,” she said.
Weeks graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in film making. She started out in film and screen writing, writing for many documentaries including some about Sanpete County, which showed at film festivals in Krakow, Poland and England and later at Snow College.
For many years, while she raised her two sons, Tyler and Jesse, she lived full-time in Salt Lake City. During that time she spent many years helping in the fine arts programs in Salt Lake schools. These days, she splits her time equally between Salt Lake and Spring City. When in Spring City, she lives on property that has been in her family for six generations.
While doing family history research, Weeks discovered that her great-great-grandfather James Tillman Sanford Allred was a participant in the Circleville Massacre.
She eventually wrote a book about the subject, “How Desolate Our Home Bereft of Thee: James Tillman Sanford Allred and the Circleville Massacre,” which took first place for creative nonfiction in a Utah Arts Council contest and was published in 2014.
“I felt it incumbent upon me to continue the research and write this narrative,” she said of the book about her great-great-grandfather.
In their later years, Weeks’ parents settled in Spring City in the family home on Center Street. Her mother passed away in 2009. Her father followed in 2010, dying, Weeks said, “in the room he was born in.”
Throughout her life, Weeks has always written but has been especially drawn to express herself in poetry.
She is also a visual artist who paints in oil and water colors and has an extensive exhibition record, including exhibits at the Granary Art Center in Ephraim.
“I enjoy writing because it refreshes one’s mind,” she said. “For me, it serves as a mental sherbert. It helps me focus and play with words in such a delicious manner.
Her body of work includes three to four volumes of poems, with about 60 poems in each.
One of those manuscripts titled, “Barn Burning,” is a 70-page narrative inspired by Sanpete County life.
“There’s a commonality to my aesthetic experience that others might recognize,” she said. “One’s heritage is so informative.”
Weeks recently received honorable mention in the 2016 Utah Original Writing Competition for a book length collection of poems, “Four by Six,” of which judge Lola Haskins said, “It carries an elegance most don’t have.”
“I was so honored,” Weeks said. “I have to tip my hat to the judge who wrote two pages of commentary about my work… I thank her so much.”
One of her favorite poems is “Grandma’s Store,” inspired by her time working in her grandmother Caroline Marie Brady Paulsen’s store in Ephraim.
It starts out:
Was dry goods and groceries and penny candy jars.
Whose windows she decorated froe very holiday
In different colored crepe paper streamers
For the occasion and to get the flowers out of the window.”
Another passage speaks of the pastime of her grandmother in her old age:
“…she’s writing a history of the place
She’s lived all her life. About pioneers.
Which she was too young to be completely
So she belongs to the Daughters of the Pioneers
Which counts as much as being one
Because they have meetings to talk about them
And dress up like them once a year and write about them
In their family history books.”
Another of her poems, “Now That You’re Old and Alone” was recently chosen for inclusion in the Utah Poetry Society 2015 Anthology “Utah Sings” which is published every 10 years.
Now that you’re old and alone
And seated just so
As not to wake
And see the emptiness of waiting for your children
Today you are older
And still waiting and
Nodding to sleep and waiting
For a blue horse to ride
Rather than the blue rocking chair
And you rock the blue
The deep felted blue
The deepest felted blue
Of feeling seated waiting
Rocking for your children.
Weeks prefers not to comment on her poetry specifically.
“I hope my poems speak for themselves because they take a lot of work to craft,” she said.
Always working, Weeks said she carries a notebook and a sketchbook with her wherever she goes. “Sometimes I’ll write a complete poem. Other times, it’s just notes,” she said. “I work in different manners.”
“I’m not only engaged in the writing process; I’m also focused on how it looks,” she said.
Her sons, Jesse and Tyler Weeks, while not following totally in their mother’s footsteps, have obviously been nourished by their home environment.
For many years, Jesse Weeks wrote for the Hudson Reporter, the newspaper covering Hudson County, N.J. just across the Hudson River from New York City. These days he is a restaurant owner in New Jersey.
Tyler Weeks, who majored in film and received a screen writing scholarship from the Utah Film Society, works for KSL News. He and a friend, Willie Nevins, co-edited a creative writing magazine for several years. which received a Best in State award in 2010.
The brothers try to return to their roots in Sanpete often. In fact, Weeks and Tyler will carry on the family tradition of going into the forest and cutting down the family tree in the coming days.
Weeks hopes for a future where she can “continue working and enjoying the creative process.”
Although she finds her heritage rich in inspiration, she is reluctant to talk about herself.
“I’m not that interesting,” she said.
Based on her work and her life story, others would beg to differ.