When did you first feel like a writer?
I mysteriously learned to read before starting school but not to form letters. Making up nursery rhymes as I played on the swing gave me great pleasure. For my 6th birthday I received a scrapbook. Cracking open those deliciously empty pages and having acquired the skills of writing, I fell to writing down my poems immediately. I still have that “scrapbook” and treasure it.
What's your philosophy about teaching a writing class?
My first thought is “if I’m not having fun no one is having fun.” That means being absorbed in the moment, open and accepting of the material presented by workshop members. While I’ll have points to get across, I’ll likely do so by demonstrating rather than lecturing. As Emily Dickinson said in one of her poems “Tell the truth but tell it slant.” My first responsibility is to support each writer in their unique experience of making poetry.
I’d like to stroll the beach with Pablo Neruda, the great Chilean poet, at his home on Isla Negra, our footsteps crunching on the rocks underfoot, discussing images and metaphors, until rain blows cold on our neck and we enter his house where he shows me all the shells, shards, broken bits of glass he’s garnered over his lifetime. After a garlicky dish of seafood and rice, he’ll read to me from his poems by candlelight, until we grow sleepy from the rough red wine and I return to the present, fed by his words, his smile, glad to be in my own sweet bed.