Past Instructors

Sam WittIs there a particular book, essay, or poem that made you want to write?

There are almost too many to name. My first love was certainly William Faulkner, and the first of his books that burrowed deep under my skin was The Sound and the Fury, for its deep psychological insight, historical sweep, extraordinary poetry, and fascinating characters. I loved Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman at a very young age, along with the Metaphysical Poets, John Donne and Henry Vaughn. Of course there's that Shakespeare guy, who must have taught Faulkner how to pit language against reality and watch them wrestle. Of the American poets writing today, I'd have to mention Reginald Shepherd, DA Powell, Anthony McCann, Tessa Rumsey, John Casteen, and lots of others that I apologize to now for neglecting to mention. Oh, and John Ashbery and Jorie Graham and Charles Wright and Rita Dove and Greg Orr, I couldn't forget them.

What's the number one thing that distracts you when you're trying to write?

The worst thing for me is maintaining any sort of focus, and distractions come in all forms—weather, wind, food, phone calls, web surfing, and so on. When I don't want to be writing the world lets me know pretty quickly, and I find that an hour reading, two hours writing, then another hour writing, followed by some time revising preexisting work can be a good one to follow. I also have a problem with over-revising my poems, in the sense that I will sometimes reread and tinker with them rather than working on something that isn't quite working, and that can be frustrating.

If you could write from any location, where would it be?

This strikes me as a very strange question. Of course the physical world is very important, but I don't buy this idea that you need to be in exotic locales to write. I abide by William Carlos Williams' theory that if you can't find it in your back yard, it isn't anywhere. That having been said, I love to travel, and have been to Morocco, Russia (where I lived for a year and a half) and all over Europe and America. I would love to return to all of those places because I was inspired by all of them, but Charlottesville, Virginia works for now, as long as I keep finding the time to wake up early and walk at the Ivy Creek Natural Area.

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