Writing is an act of sustained attention to the things that define what it means to be human. To that end, writing reminds me my feet are in contact with the ground and that my brain is constantly involved in what scientists call “on-gong interpretive activity.” Commingle perception, imagination, memory and the mind has the ability to leap from the words "ground" to "coffee" to the corner cafe, which (in keeping with the proliferation of televisions in public places) recently mounted a flat screen behind the counter—and last week, a TV at the gas pump caught my eye, and as it blinked and whistled an upbeat advertisement, I vividly remember thinking, is this dangerous? Should we be preoccupied while handling flammable liquids? How frequently do gas stations catch on fire, anyway?......
And so the mind goes, spooling forward, reflecting, refracting. It is through writing I find order and pattern between my internal and external world. I primarily write poetry, but my interests are quickly expanding as I become more and more captivated by the dynamic possibilities of writing non-fiction.
My enthusiasm for non-fiction was triggered by my discovery of current neuropsychology texts that utilize the craft techniques of creative writers. The idea that we can elevate factual research, ideas and lived experience to the level of artful discourse is quite magnificent. And while on the topic of science and the brain...the literature suggests that the self is simply a collection of thoughts and ideas, a “self-purported narrative.”—What does this mean for the writer who records, who invents? And what happens when the writer is conscious of both acts of creation?
Writing is serious business that also requires serious play. Experimentation with subjects, forms and voices are essential practices. There are a million ways to structure a poem, story or essay, and sometimes “the rules” of each genre may need to bend or barrow from other genres. I want to learn from the fiction and non-fiction writer techniques that might help me write better poems. What can the writer of prose learn about rhythm and image from the poet? What’s a prose poem, a lyric essay, that thing that doesn’t even have a name yet?! In general, having a background in the visual arts, (as an undergrad I studied painting, printmaking and design) I am deeply interested in how disciplines can and do inform one another, and am always open to “cross-pollination.”
Robert Penn Warren said, “A poem is a way of asking a question, rather than answering one.” I believe wholeheartedly in this statement and think all good art begins with sincere inquiry; I would go so far as to say curiosity is the imagination’s foremost catalyst.
My goal as a teacher is to help students locate their own passions and questions about the world. Because I believe earnest discovery requires discipline, a sense of humor, humility and a willingness to see something from every possible angle, I encourage students to push themselves into unknown territory, and to stay there long enough to honor the mind’s natural impulses to seek connectivity.
Every person navigates a different creative path through a forest that conceals difficulties and profound delights. I view my role not as “guide” but as someone who is there at the junctions to help students decide the direction they want to go. I hope to inspire and support, but I also feel a responsibility to equip students with the practical tools necessary to excel at their craft, so they may thrive on their own.
My formal education includes a BFA in visual arts from the University of Michigan and an MFA in poetry from the University of Arizona. I have also traveled abroad extensively, the most significant trip being a year-long, solo adventure around the world. I consider such experiences to be as valuable as the many hours I’ve spent in seminars and libraries, or behind a computer or easel.
Additional areas of study include contemplative arts, eco-criticism, outdoor education, neuropsychology, American comedy and satire, Eastern philosophy, ekphrasis and gender and feminist studies. I have taught English and creative writing workshops for the University of Michigan’s New England Literature Program, Stanford University’s Creative Writing Program and, currently, I teach poetry and non-fiction for Stanford’s Online Writer’s Studio. I feel fortunate to have received a fellowship from the University of Arizona’s Poetry Center to teach as a poet-in-the-schools; other awards include a Wallace Stegner fellowship, and scholarships from the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences, the Hall Farm Center and the Vermont Studio Center. My work has appeared in Court Green, DIAGRAM, Gulf Coast, FIELD, Iowa Review, Pool, Prairie Schooner, Threepenny Review, Third Coast and elsewhere.