Classy Talk with Kate Lebo

Posted Sat, 3/09/2013 - 12:33am by  |  Category:

Kate Lebo is teaching a class, “(Un)Conventional Poetry” at Richard Hugo House this spring. She took some time to answer some questions for us. 

What is the title of your class?           

(Un)Conventional Poetry

People should take this class because?           

We all get in poetry ruts. We use the same old forms to frame the same old voices to talk about the same old things. For me, right now, that means I write about butter in couplets and hope to sound like Rae Armantrout. This class will break writers out of ruts by asking them to get acquainted with specific styles and forms of poetry and then imitate them to create new work. I’ve modeled this class on the English 383: Craft of Verse class I’m teaching for the University of Washington right now, so it’s a chance to take a university-style class at Hugo House.

Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?           

Sure! You can follow my tumblr at or get on my all-pie-no-spam mailing list by writing

What are you reading right now?           

The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath, especially an essay called “Ariel’s Kitchen: Plath, Ladies’ Home Journal, and the Domestic Surreal” by Marsha Bryant. Say Uncle by Kay Ryan. Just Kids by Patti Smith.

What excites you about the material you’re teaching?

Once you start figuring out how poems fit in with or rebel against a genre, it’s like you get to wear X-ray specs while reading and writing. You start to understand how your own work is part of a larger conversation about poetry. You get to listen and respond to that conversation.

What do you like best about teaching at Hugo House?           

The students—how diverse their backgrounds are. How everyone comes into the room with a different relationship to writing. How they’re all experts at something, so I always learn as much as I teach.

Also, coming in early for class so I can shoot the shit with Brian.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?           

“Save your best hour for writing.” Thanks, Ryan Boudinot.