This PNW heatwave is a great reminder that summer quarter at Hugo House is fast approaching! We’re delighted to debut our brand-new instructors with our virtual speed dating—welcome to The House Alyse Knorr, who will be teaching Sci-Fi Social Justice on August 8.
Alyse Knorr is a queer poet, associate professor of English at Regis University, co-editor of Switchback Books, and co-producer of the Sweetbitter podcast. She is the author of three poetry collections, two nonfiction books, and four poetry chapbooks.
Q&A with Alyse
What piece of advice changed the way you write?
Once, ten years ago, I sat on a porch next to my favorite poet (and first literary crush!) Olga Broumas. She held a stack of my poems in her hands–poems about how hard it had been for me to grow up gay and closeted in the Deep South. Olga first instructed me to sit up straighter, and to hold my head and chin up higher. It was like she was physically preparing me for the advice she wanted to give me. Then she told me that she had long ago learned from the poet Adrienne Rich (another lesbian activist writer from Olga’s era) that one must write not from the voice of the victim, but from the voice of justice. I’ve held that advice near and dear ever since. As a framework, it allows me to always retain my sense of power and dignity even as I write about very difficult and even traumatic subjects.
What is your favorite word in any language?
I love the way the French say “I miss you” or “I miss her.” Instead of constructing it like we do, with subject (“I”), verb (“miss”), direct object (“you”), the French place the person who is being missed in the front, as the subject. In French, we say “Tu me manques” instead of “I miss you,” where the “tu” means “you.” The direct translation, then, is something like “You are making me miss you,” or “You are the one that I miss,” only even those aren’t exactly right. I love how they grammatically foreground the one who is missed rather than the one doing the missing, because that’s how it feels to miss someone–they are at the very front of your mind.
Where do you find inspiration? How do you get unstuck?
Word lists! I love to make poems out of random lists of words. It’s the best prompt–totally liberating, which is a bit paradoxical, I realize. One year for Valentine’s Day, my wife (who is also a poet) gave me a big box of words. It was so romantic, and inspired many poems.
What are you currently writing?
I’m currently writing a post-apocalyptic novel about an emotionally scarred Coast Guard veteran who must journey across what remains of the southern United States to find her estranged twin sister after almost all of humanity disappears overnight.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, a beautiful novel about friendship, video games, and creative labor. I absolutely loved it, and would recommend it to anyone, but especially Millennial gamers!
Tell us about a piece of writing that really moves and/or inspires you.
One of my favorite poems of all time is Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Gate A-4
.” Like all of my favorite poems, no matter how many times I read it, I always discover in it something new and exciting to love–some element of craft I hadn’t noticed before. And like all great poems, no matter how many times I read it, I never cease to be moved by Nye’s vision for a hopeful, kind, and generous world.
Thank you, Alyse, for being in community with us! Check out her upcoming workshop Sci-Fi Social Justice before registration opens next month.
Summer Registration Dates:
June 5: Scholarship Donation Day (Learn more.)
June 6: Member registration opens
June 13: General registration opens
Interested in teaching with Hugo House? The House puts out an open call for class submissions four times per year, approximately seven months before each quarter. Learn more here.