Master of Fine Arts in Poetry

Q. Describe your personal writing process.
A. My writing process is often times quite chaotic. It normally begins with observations I put down on notes. Sometimes I come home at the end of the day with a stockpile of random thoughts in my pocket. Then on the weekends, when it’s nice and quiet, I like to sit down with my dog and sort things out. That’s when I get poems down first. But revision for me is extremely important, because I find poetry to be a process that is ever-evolving. What I have found myself doing lately is carrying a poem or two in that are “in-progress” around with me, so that I can read them at various points throughout my day—walking to class, at the dentist office—by the time I finish a poem, it has been with me for a long time.

Q. I understand you are an English teacher. Have you used the program in your classroom at all?
I structure my classes so that the curriculum examines various forms in art, to give students an opportunity to recognize a greater vision (we’re doing more than just reading books). I try to provide them the tools to see how art is created; I want them to look at the aesthetic process of to see how artists get across a specific idea or feeling or perception. Form in this sense is as important as content. I once heard W. S. Merwin claim, “It’s not what you love but how you love it.” I want my students to also be in the world of the “how.” The discussions we have about art and poetry has influenced them as well as my own writing.

Q. How have the faculty helped you in your writing process?
My mentors have pushed me very hard. The feedback was at times critical, and in the beginning, somewhat difficult to handle, mainly because poetry is such a personal endeavor. I began, however, to look past the surface to see in what ways I could learn. Soon after, I started to have breakthroughs with my writing because I think my mentors were trying to unlock preconceived notions about the writing process. The personal attention they offer to my work would be difficult to get in another environment. They really do care about both the students and art; they revere poetry and you can see this through every interaction.

Q. Tell me about the residencies you’ve attended.
The residencies were extremely intensive. All students and faculty spend the majority of their time together, and you certainly create a sense of community over the course of the ten days. We have discussions about poetry 24 hours a day for 10 days, and it really allows you to focus greatly on the writing process through a deep feeling of immersion. Even when you’re sleeping, you’re singing. I loved the passion in it. Just something as simple as having dinner, eating a burger with my classmates and professors, often times leads to a fruitful conversation about verse. It is wonderful being around such serious learners.

Q. You are working on the MFA in Poetry and Translation as well. Would you mind describing that program?
The translation aspect of the MFA is great because there are not a lot of programs that offer this option. The world is becoming more and more integrated, and there is a larger need for art to cross geographic and cultural boundaries. Translating poetry is a completely different challenge from writing your own, but I am really enjoying it. What’s interesting about translation is the pressure is off when it comes to thinking about something creative to write about, and yet, there is a greater responsibility to the artist’s work of whom you are translating. As if you could get it wrong. That can be a scary endeavor.

Q. What are you planning to do after graduation?
I have had some poems published in journals this year, and I am working on a full length manuscript. I am teaching in high school now, but would love to teach on the college level as well. I need to be around learners, because it makes me feel so alive. I tell my students, “There is a time to learn and a time to love. The goal of education is to makes those two experiences one in the same.” My life right now is at this point, and I am filled with gratitude.