Major/MinorEnglish / creative writing
The 2014 Sophie Kerr Winner
1) What will be (or is) the first book you read now that you’ve graduated from Washington College?
I’ve been studying Heaney’s District and Circle as a way to both cool down and strike a certain rhythm after last week’s exciting (but draining) events. Heaney’s good for the former especially because he’s untouchable: the perfect tamer of ego.
Winning the Sophie Kerr Prize is a true honor, but – at the risk of sounding ungrateful – it has also caused a number of distractions. Good natured though they may be, distractions they remain. So now with Heaney’s help, I’m getting back into a working rhythm because, in the end, that’s what’s important: the work itself.
2) It seems you draw a good deal of inspiration from life on the Eastern Shore. What has had the most influence on you as a person and/or as a writer?
Is it silly to say reading has had the most influence? I’ve always wanted to recreate the sheer excitement I feel when I read something good, which usually has less to do with “having something to say,” as is often touted, and more with shaping language in an interesting, thoughtful way.
3) One of your poems you read at the Pratt Library that I liked a great deal is “A Mother Remembers.” How did this poem come to you?
Plath has a poem called “Nick and the Candlestick,” which begins in media res: “And I am a miner.” I liked the assertiveness and mystery of that, so I began: “And I am an astronomer.” I also took her leaf-light tercets to give an airiness and a rapidity of sorts.
But where her poem descends – to some cave, wet and musty – mine is gazing through a telescope, so to speak. The ocean/heavens interplay seemed to come without thinking too much, so I just went with it. The address – “O little starlet, / forever fingerling” – is a perfect example of the writer as conduit for the Muse: it just came about while I was reading aloud, trying to run through the empty space in the poem. No intellect. No planning. Pure gift.
4) Which author(s) taught you the most about writing?
Heaney. I learned a great deal from Yeats (and I’ll always be learning from Yeats and of course countless others), but Heaney really brings me to my senses.
5) What was the most important lesson you learned about writing?
This important lesson is ultimately reassuring: You will never know everything.
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