What is the title of your class?
Politics & Poetry
What’s one thing you hope your students will take away from the class?
Philip Larkin’s poem “Party Politics” goes like this:
I never remember holding a full drink.
My first look shows the level half-way down.
What next? Ration the rest, and try to think
Of higher things, until mine host comes round?
Some people say, best show an empty glass:
Someone will fill it. Well, I’ve tried that too.
You may get drunk, or dry half-hours may pass.
It seems to turn on where you are. Or who.
I hope students take away from this class an expanded idea of what politics is, but barring that, I hope they learn to fill their glasses at the party.
What sorts of writers will you be reading/assigning in class? Why?
All sorts of English and American poets from the past two hundred years, beginning with a few English Romantics like Byron and Shelley, since those two in particular were overtly political in their lives and in their art. We’ll look at the poetry of 19th century politician Abraham Lincoln on our way to William Butler Yeats. As we move into the 20th century, we’ll pass the English World War I poets like Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, and Wilfred Owen on our way to the Harlem Renaissance and American Modernism. We’ll visit Pound and Eliot, as well as Edna St. Vincent Millay, on our way to the more turbulent ’60s, where we’ll read Anne Sexton, Denise Levertov, Gregory Corso, and James Wright. For an inside peek at the faltering English Empire, we’ll look at Philip Larkin. We’ll finally turn our attention on a host of contemporary American poets, including but not limited to Eduardo C. Corral, Natalie Diaz, and Roger Reeves.
Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?
Yes. I’m on Facebook as John Wesley Horton.
Are any of your works online and available to the public?
I just published an essay on the poetry of Seattle poet, Rebecca Hoogs, here.
A few of my poems were recently featured here.
What’s your teaching philosophy?
Theodore Roethke said teachers are failed preachers. Since I love teaching on Sunday mornings I’d say that’s accurate of me, except I’m a little more into conversations than I am preaching. I like asking questions. Beyond that, I hope to build an environment in which people with differing viewpoints can speak their hearts and minds.
What advice do you have about getting into the habit of writing regularly?
Get up before the sunrise.
What are you working on right now? Where did the idea come from?
I’m editing a literary magazine called Mare Nostrum with my friend Sierra Nelson at the moment. It’s a magazine filled with essays, stories, and poems inspired by the University of Washington’s creative programs in Rome and at Friday Harbor Laboratories.
Let’s talk writing inspiration—what’s the No. 1 thing that drives you to write?
Wow, you might as well dig up a Cro-Magnon from Lascoux. I’m at a loss for words.