People should take this class if…
. . . they would like to learn and practice one of the most basic, useful poetic strategies — to write in form. Despite those sonnets that traumatized us in high school, and gave some of us cases of poetic PSSD (Post-Sonnet Stress Disorder J ), forms have a delightful ability to draw poetry out of us that we didn’t know we had! In this workshop modeled on Miss Bishop’s example, we will read poems in form by Bishop, Weldon Kees, Maxine Kumin, Marilyn Hacker, David Lehman; younger neo-Formalists such as Agha Shahid Ali, Annie Finch, and A. E. Stallings; and we’ll generate new poems of our own inspired by their work. We’ll explore how form helps us achieve surprising leaps in our language, with strategies that will strengthen our writing of free verse as well as nonfiction, memoir, and story! We’ll try some intriguing and less frequently practiced forms such as the cinquain, pantoum, triolet, and villanelle; and fun and creatively freeing nonce (invented for the occasion) forms like the abecedarian and acrostic. As part of my personalized approach to teaching, I will hold an individual meeting with each class member at the end of the course.
Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?
Are any of your works online and available to the public?
Here are links to some of my work available online—much of it is in form!
Read four poems from my most recent book, Mania Klepto: the Book of Eulene (2011).
Read a sample poem from A Change of Maps (2006) (under “Excerpts”)
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 words better. So it is a wonderful place to teach writing and foster the creative receptivity and engagement that enable us to write and function as writers in our community. In all courses I direct, I give related reading assignments and foster in-class discussion of representative works of American and international poetry and/or prose, as appropriate to the course’s genre. I urge class members to be alive to their contemporary surroundings—social, political, intellectual—to allow these circumstances to inform their creative and critical efforts, and to write from the perspective of their own backgrounds in the context of the broader society. My approach to teaching is quite personalized, and I always encourage class members to be creative in responding to prompts and also in directing themselves in writing exercises.
If you could have any famous actor read one of your pieces to you, who would it be and why?
Lily Tomlin would read “Sestina: Eulene,” a sestina with six end-words, all of which are “Eulene.” She could convey just the proper frisson of gravitas K and absurdity J to the delivery of this poem.
What are you currently working on?
As a Senior Editor for Lost Horse Press, I am co-editing an anthology on women and work, Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace, forthcoming from Lost Horse this fall. I’m also completing a manuscript of new and selected poems, This Dream the World (Lost Horse Press, 2015); working on essays for a collection tentatively entitled Confessions of a Nonce Formalist; and putting finishing touches on collections of poetry in translation from Spanish and Bengali.
What’s your favorite “rule” of writing to break in your own writing?
The rule that you need to break the rules, along with the rule that you shouldn’t break the rules! Also sentence fragments. And the rule that you must complete everything you
What are you reading now? If you could pair it with a beverage (alcoholic or otherwise), what would you choose?
Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art: Selected Letters, ed. Robert Giroux, especially the letters she wrote from Brazil. I’d pair it with Brazil’s national drink, caipirinha—a cocktail of cachaça (sugar cane hard liquor), mixed with lime and sugar. But since I don’t care much for hard liquor, I’d settle for a smooth cabernet sauvignon … mixed with cranberry juice!