Elizabeth Austen is teaching a class, “Poetry: The Practice of Revision” at Richard Hugo House this spring. She took some time to answer some questions for us.
What is the title of your class?
People should take this class because?
Do you have a drawer full of poems you don’t know what to do with? Or do you sometimes feel that your rewriting process sucks the life out of your poems? The practice of revision is where we build our craft muscles, and, contrary to what some may tell you, it can be energizing and magical as feeling a first draft course through you.
What are you reading right now?
Just finished Karen Finneyfrock’s wonderful AYA novel The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild while I was traveling in New Zealand. Next up is Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things. (Yes, I have a writer crush on Cheryl. Please don’t tell anyone.)
What excites you about the material you’re teaching?
Revision is my favorite part of the writing process. It carries me deeper into the material than I would go if I didn’t have the pressure of craft. Not only does the poem deepen when I’m revising well, but I grow as a person as a result of the things that I have to wrestle with in revision.
What do you like best about teaching at Hugo House?
The students, of course! Nothing’s better than being in a room full of people who are excited about taking their craft to a deeper level.
What book(s) made you want to write?
Good lord, that would take all night to tell you! Let’s just say that the poems of Stanley Kunitz, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Lucille Clifton, Marie Howe, Wm Shakespeare, Lucia Perillo, and Tim Seibles keep me writing and reading.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Persist. Be patient. Persist.
If you could have coffee with any author living or dead, who would it be?
Emily Dickinson. Especially if she made one of her cakes to go with the coffee.