Faculty, MFA in Creative Writing Program
Residency Site: Plainfield VT
Michael Klein has written three books of poetry, the most recent of which is The Talking Day (Sibling Rivalry Press), which was finalist for both the Thom Gunn award and the Lambda Literary award. His new book, When I Was a Twin, will be out in September 2015. His first book, 1990 (Provincetown Arts Press) tied with James Schuyler to win a Lambda Literary Award in 1993. He is also the author of a memoir, Track Conditions, a Lambda finalist and The End of Being Known, a book of linked essays about sex and friendship, both published by the University of Wisconsin Press. He has been teaching at Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill since 2013 and has also taught writing at Sarah Lawrence College, Binghamton University, and Manhattanville. He also teaches at Hunter College in New York, where he lives.
MFA in Writing, Vermont College of Fine Arts
Areas of Expertise
Poetry, Memoir, Essay, Non-Fiction, Criticism
I taught at Goddard in the 1990s, and spent those years teaching poets, fiction writers, memoirists and even playwrights while trying to write poems and finishing a book about life on the racetrack. In those early days of what would amazingly become a decade, I was in love with the possibilities in the genres we were teaching because so many students were making manuscripts they couldn’t call one thing. Fiction kept turning into non-fiction, poems kept turning into essays. My fiction students, in particular, taught me a lot in those days because I was anxious to continue my experiment in writing something longer than a poem without abandoning the music I could hear in poems.
In 2002 I fell in love with a human being and left Goddard to explore my new life of someone else in it because I had a life that only had me in it for a very long time which is probably why I got so much writing done. Some of it was good, I think. I was writing poems here and there then but mostly, if I remember right, I was trying to write essays after having written a memoir. As far as output goes, I had finished one book, Track Conditions (Ballantine) about my life as groom to the Kentucky Derby winner (1984) Swale, and started working on what would become The End of Being Known (University of Wisconsin) a collection of linked essays about – for lack of a more pedagogical way to say it – sex and friendship. The two books are very different from each other and the book of poems I wrote in 1993, 1990 (Provincetown Arts Press), which is my first book, is even more different. That book was my MFA thesis (Vermont College, 1990).
Teaching and writing for me are two activities that bless each other and dare each other. The way I “learned” to be a writer was to read and to listen (to language and the music of language, and also to the music of music: jazz, mostly). I tell students to read a lot of different kinds of books and find out what the obsessions of the writer are. In that way, they begin to find out what their own obsessions are and how they can write something that is both musical and authentic to how they see and feel.
To paraphrase e.e. cummings: “whenever we think, or know, or believe, we’re lots of other people. It’s only when we feel that we are no one but ourselves.” I think that’s what I would like to help the writer do in a time and in a world that resists that impulse every chance it gets. Writing is a daring and utterly radical enterprise and that’s the joy of it.