For me, poetry is a balance, or a vacillation, between overthinking a thing until I’ve ground it to dust, and floating on the air, letting the writing happen. One translation of this happens when I try not to think at all, to the extent that that is possible, and write, and then follow that up later by looking at every last detail as I edit.
Kevin Willmott, screenwriter of BlacKkKlansman, visits residency to receive Spalding Prize
By School of Writing chair Kathleen Driskell
Due to the continuing Covid-19 crisis and out of an abundance of caution for the health of our students, faculty, and administrators, Spalding University has placed a moratorium on faculty travel to and from campus for the foreseeable future. This means the School of Writing directors and faculty will convene our Fall 2020 residency through virtual platforms.
We can’t pretend a virtual residency is the same as meeting in person, but I want you to know directors, faculty, and staff are working very hard to bring students a rich and thought-provoking curriculum. The School of Writing is building on our successful virtual residency experience last spring and will continue to innovate, taking advantage of the best synchronous virtual pedagogy and technology available. We’re also having fun planning social hours for you at lunch and in the evenings.
Creative nonfiction, like all other forms of creative writing, is a demanding genre. In whichever form the writer may find themselves working—and there are many: personal essay, memoir, lyric essay, meditative essay, literary journalism, immersion, travelogue—the most common thread is the self, the I as the eye, one’s own life and experiences as vehicle for exploration.
The School of Writing at Spalding University announces that Jody Lisberger, MFA, Ph.D., will retire from the teaching faculty of our low-residency MFA program effective July 1, 2020. Jody began teaching for Spalding in 2006.
By Jeremy Paden, Spalding School of Writing Poetry Translation Faculty
His name is Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez. Propublica tells us Carlos was just sixteen years old when he died of the flu in a cell at a detention center in Weslaco, Texas in May 2019. He was from the Mayan highlands of Guatemala and the fourth minor to have died while in the custody of the Customs and Border Patrol Agency of the United States in 2019. He had followed his brother north, hoping that a new country would give him opportunities his own could not provide. The other children who have died in custody this year are also Guatemalan: the eight-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo, the not-yet-three-year-old Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vázquez, and the sixteen-year-old Juan de León Gutiérrez. In 2018, two minors died while in custody, both girls: Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle, a ten-year-old El Salvadoran, and Jakelin Caal Maquín, a seven-year-old Guatemalan.
By Sam Zalutsky, Screenwriting Faculty, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing
I was recently reading James Baldwin’s short essay, “The Creative Process,” from 1962. And with apologies for the gendered language, it offers wonderful insights about the artist’s role in society. Baldwin writes: “Perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid; the state of being alone.”
By Robin Lippincott, Fiction & Creative Nonfiction Faculty, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing
The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser
Because it’s almost National Poetry Month as I write, and may already be April by the time this post appears, I want to repost a freshened-up version of an earlier blog—a tribute to the late, great poet Muriel Rukeyser.
I was fortunate enough to see Rukeyser and to hear her read, in 1978, less than two years before her death. This was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at Harvard University, in the Woodberry Poetry Room, as I recall, and the place was packed. Stratis Haviaras, director of the Poetry Room and later a teacher of mine, must have introduced her, but I don’t remember that.
By Elaine Neil Orr, Fiction/Creative Nonfiction Faculty
Since I wrote this short essay about Covid-19 and sliding into depression and finding a way out, I’ve felt depressed again, more than once. I’m seeing a pattern and learning how to pull myself up. But I’m also trying to be patient with myself. Today after my graduate seminar, I told my students I love them. It’s true. I do love them. But I would not say that in “normal times.” I’m saying it now that we are all more aware of how fragile life is. My students’ faces registered real joy when I spoke that sentence: “I love you.”
I hope we can make it permissible to find the good that this period of our lives yields up.
Maybe this blog can yield up some grace in your day.
Elaine Neil Orr is the author of five books, including her memoir, Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life, and the novel, A Different Sun. Her latest novel, Swimming Between Worlds captures the moral imperatives of integration in the early 1960s and was a finalist for the 2019 Phillip H. McMath Post-Publication Book Award in Fiction. She has been honored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She serves on the faculty of English at N.C. State University as well as the faculty of the Spalding University School of Creative and Professional Writing.
By Dianne Aprile, Creative Nonfiction Faculty, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing
Many thanks to my brother Kevin Aprile, an editor in Ohio for the Chronicle-Telegram, who invited me to write about living at the epicenter of Covid-19 in its early days. What follows is an updated version of the original column that ran on March 29.
My husband and I have a longstanding breakfast-table ritual. Over coffee and toast, we routinely and enthusiastically interrupt each other’s private thoughts as much as possible by calling out surprising or outrageous headlines ripped from the pages of one of the two print newspapers we read each morning.
By Lesléa Newman, Writing for Children & Young Adults Faculty, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing
I. I remember shaking hands: damp, sweaty hands and dry, scratchy hands, bone-crushing handshakes and dead-fish handshakes, two-handed handshakes, my hand sandwiched between a pair of big beefy palms. I remember hairy hands and freckled hands, young smooth hands and old wrinkled hands, red polished fingernails and bitten jagged fingernails, stained hands of hairdressers who had spent all day dying, dirty hands of gardeners who dug down deep into the good earth.