Division of Interdisciplinary Inquiry: Master of Arts in Creative Writing
Professional Title: M.F.A. Creative Writing Faculty
Areas of Academic Focus and Expertise: Poetry
Representative List of Recent Courses Taught: Distance-Learning Courses:· Creative Writing I-IV · Craft and Reflection I-III· Graduating Seminar Preparation· Creative Thesis
Education: B.A., College of Letters at Wesleyan University; Graduate degrees from Hollins University and Washington University
Representative List of Recent Publications / Exhibitions: Books of Poetry:Churches (2014)In a Beautiful Country (2011)National Anthem (2008)Fallen from a Chariot (2005)The Finger Bone (2002)Strange Wood (1998)Editor: numerous anthologies including New European Poets, New Young American Poets, Dunstan Thompson: on the Life and Work of a Lost American Master (2010) the forthcoming Russell Atkins: On the Life and Work of an American Master (2013) and Until Everything is Continuous Again: American Poets on the Recent Work of W. S. Merwin (2012).
Teaching Philosophy: Like other art forms, poetry at its best is a kind of complex communication, a way one mind speaks to a multitude of minds, many of them not yet born. What attracts me to poetry particularly is not merely the way it compresses or asserts meaning, but the way a poem can hold within it multiple, often conflicting, meanings. The poems I admire are frequently born out of ambivalence—out of strong feelings or beliefs in conflicting directions. These poems ask difficult, vital human questions, but their object is not necessarily to answer these questions; they are, in fact, often unanswerable. Instead, they think about them with purpose and complexity, helping us reformulate them for ourselves. Although I love to talk about the technical aspects of poetry writing—rhyme, meter, image, tone, etc—I generally approach drafts of student poems with these three questions in the back of my mind: 1) What questions is this poem engaged with? 2) How does it go about trying to think about these questions? And 3) How might it do so more successfully?
Awards: The Prairie Schooner/Strousse Award; the William Rockhill Nelson Award; fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lannan Foundation; three Pushcart prizes, two Best American Poetry selections, and numerous awards from the Poetry Society of America.
Affiliations: University of Houston Creative Writing Program, Associate Editor of American Book Review; Editor-at-Large of Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing; former Vice President of the National Book Critics Circle.
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