Believeland & Nearly 2017

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and 2016 has been a long, weird, intriguing and intense year.

I’ve been writing poems on gun culture and gun violence–you can read (and hear me read) “Dollar General” over at the Oxford American website.  I was at the incredible and idyllic MacDowell Colony for 2 weeks in June, holed up in a studio named Phi Beta working hard on new poems which are slated to appear next year in The Southern Review, Bennington Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Cherry Tree, and Ploughshares, among other places.

In July, I went to cover the city of Cleveland during the Republican National Convention in verse for Virginia Quarterly Review’s Fall 2016 issue with photographer Ryan Spencer Reed.  You can read my essay and poems (and hear me read a LeBron poem I wrote at MacDowell), and see Ryan’s photos, over at VQR–the piece is currently unlocked.  It was a wild trip.  I interviewed many, many people, including clergy, ministers, teachers, barbers, hospitality industry workers, protesters, artists, convention delegates, police officers, medical personnel, clinic workers, RTA employees–anyone who would speak to us–and used the interviews and our perambulations all over the city to make the pieces that were published.  I have more to say on these kinds of collaborations, and I’m hoping to use some of the material I collected to write more about the experience now that we’re post-election.  You can hear me ruminate a bit on my process for the project over at Rachel Zucker’s new Commonplace podcast series (which features a regular cornucopia of truly incredible interviews with other poets–I’m Episode 6 (a two-parter!).  And if audio is your thing, you can also hear poet Nancy Reddy read and talk about my poem “Walmart Supercenter” over at the Lyric Essentials/Sundress blog.

In July, I also read in Bryant Park to help celebrate BOA Edition’s 40th anniversary, with a bunch of fabulous BOA authors, including Michael Waters, Craig Morgan Teicher (who read from his out-any-minute-now amazing new book, The Trembling Answers), and Aracelis Girmay (whose newest book, The Black Maria, is so powerful she had me weeping before I read).  I was back in NYC in September to kick off the KGB Bar Monday Night Reading series with Jason Schneiderman, and then I read at both Washington & Lee and Hampden Sydney later in the fall.  My spring readings are listed here, and so far it looks like I’m headed to DC for AWP (this year, I served on the Conference Subcommittee to help select panels), TX, and Iceland for the NonfictioNOW conference.  I love doing readings and class visits, so email me if you want me to come visit, or Skype into your class!

It’s MFA application season, and I’m still director of Virginia Tech’s MFA program.  We fully fund all students we accept with GTA-ships of over $16,000/year, so apply or tell your friends and students to apply!  And if you’re an MFA student looking for post-MFA advice, check out my post-MFA Tumblr.  Also, I’m over-the-moon-excited to be teaching a interdisciplinary class this spring that I’ve developed alongside Dr. Ali Colleen Neff called The Arts & Social Transformation (ENGL 4984/AFST 4354), on protest, community, creativity, and belonging.  You can see all an outline of our syllabus and our course description up on our course website.

I’ve been going back to Auden’s “September 1, 1939” lately, among other poems.  I hope everyone is finding poetry to sustain them through the darkness of these short almost-winter days.