What’s the name of your class?
What’s one thing you hope your students will take away from the class?
An excitement about telling stories the way Homer, the Beowulf poet, and the Barrett-Brownings told stories—in poetry! That is, to understand and practice storytelling strategies to generate longer narrative poems and to keep them going.
What sorts of writers will you be reading/assigning in class? Why?
We’ll be reading narrative poems by poets as diverse as Julia Alvarez, Elizabeth Bishop, Stephen Dobyns, Denise Duhamel, Jeffrey Harrison, Richard Hugo (yes, himself!), Yusef Komunyakaa, Molly Peacock, and Charles Harper Webb. These are poems by poets that get us writing!
Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?
Are any of your works online and available to the public?
Yes—poems are available on these sites. The first two are publishers’ pages for the books.
What’s your teaching philosophy?
I take to heart Hugo House’s mission—a place for writers, a place to read words, hear words, and make our own words better. My teaching is quite personalized, and I always encourage class members to be creative in responding to prompts and in directing themselves as well in writing exercises.
What advice do you have about getting into the habit of writing regularly?
Set a time of day to just write—don’t deviate from this if at all possible. Always carry a notebook and pen with you so you can write down any idea or image or line that comes to you during the day or night. Any spare moment, pull out a draft and revise a few lines.
What are you working on right now? Where did the idea come from?
I’m co-editing an anthology on women and work, Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace (Lost Horse Press, Human Rights Series, 2015). The idea came from my own years as a “permanent temporary”—a perpetually visiting poet at a series of teaching jobs—and from my desire to hear the stories of other women in this economy, about their workplace experiences: not just pay and promotion inequity, or workplace harassment and intimidation, but also the amazing range of jobs and occupations in which women are engaged, and their joy and satisfaction of work well done.
What’s your favorite word in the English vocabulary?
At present I like “antediluvian”—but I know that the seas are rising, and that “après nous le déluge” (“after us, the deluge”)!
Let’s talk writing inspiration—what’s the No. 1 thing that drives you to write?
So much of my writing arises from a nudge that comes from something I read, or hear in conversation or on the radio or wherever, or notice out of the corner of my eyes—some image or phrase that awakens that creative center inside the brain and starts a train of associations. Writing is my primary way of responding creatively to the world.