Under the Ocelot Sun: The Making of an Illustrated Book

By Jeremy Paden, Spalding School of Writing Poetry Translation Faculty

The Bestia.
[Illustration by Annelissa Hermosilla]
[The Bestia is the name that migrants have given to the train that runs from southern Mexico
to northern Mexico. It’s known as The Bestia because of how dangerous it is.] 

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.

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On Muriel Rukeyser

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.

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Writing in Times of Uncertainty

By Kathleen Driskell, Chair, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing

This post originally appeared as a Facebook post on March 21, 2020.

Spalding students, I hear some of you are having a hard time writing in this time of uncertainty. Me, too. And this is exacerbated by the fact that your worksheet submissions are due April 22. But here’s something I know you’ve learned in Spalding’s program: All writing is born from other writing. The other thing I know you’ve gained from this program is at least one writing friend.

Reach out to that friend and reawaken the lost art and appreciation for letter writing. What would the world of writing be like—what would the world be like—if we didn’t have the letters of Virginia Woolf, Rilke, Keats, Audre Lorde, Flannery O’Connor, Dickinson?

Connect with at least one writing friend (maybe create a circle of three or four) and begin a serious correspondence. Ask each other open-ended questions about the art of writing, your own writing, the world around us—focus on asking questions surrounding our senses or about experiences we are having or remembering in this time of isolation. Commit to meaningful challenging conversation in letters. Hold each other accountable. Encourage one another to spin off into other writing when these letters surprise us with wonderful ideas and observations.

Remember, all writing, every aspect of it, is about connection.


Award-winning poet and teacher Kathleen Driskell is the MFA Chair and Professor of Creative Writing at Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing, Home of the Low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program. Her newest poetry collection Blue Etiquette is available from Red Hen Press. Next Door to the Dead, winner of the 2018 Judy Gaines Young Book Award is available from UPKY. Follow her @kathdriskell or visit her blog at kathleendriskell.blogspot.com.


It’s National Poetry Month! Have you got your poem for today?

By Lynnell Edwards, Associate Program Director, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing

The first time I tried a “poem-a-day” challenge in April for National Poetry Month I had already blown it before I even started.  From my journal that year, I see the first entry is Monday, April 3.  But I had given myself a few rules to make the whole endeavor slightly more humane and if maybe I actually didn’t remember it was April until the 3rd, then okay.  Monday is still kind of like a first day so I went forward.

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Three Poems of the Last Decade for the New Decade

By Douglas Manuel, Spalding School of Writing Poetry Faculty

The fact the decade was ending snuck up on me, much as old age often does: no impact at all, and then, suddenly, one’s perspective on flights of stairs changes, and one’s lower back finds the key of pain a little more often. I quote T.S. Eliot far too often: “I grow old … I grow old.” So yes, because of the stupors of routine and/or the acute observation fatigue I often feel (Our current political situation is a heavy stone I remove from my chest daily.), I did not feel the sighing swirls of decade’s end until the onslaught of end-of-decade lists saturated my television time with my family and my internet time as I turned tight, slow corners through the roads of my online neighborhoods. It was then, as cultivated nostalgia fed my senses, that I took my eyes from my screens and to myself, to those weathered roads of memory where the skyline is mostly foggy and the rain is cold enough to sting a bit but light enough to feel like mist. 

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Ohm’s Law

By Debra Kang Dean, Spalding School of Writing Poetry Faculty

For any circuit the electrical current is directly proportional to the voltage and is inversely proportional to the resistance.

As a consequence of my bewilderingly high scores in the electronics section of the battery of tests I had to take before enlisting in the Air Force, I was recruited into the field of ground radio repair. It turned out to be a poor match since I never really got beyond being able to read schematics; I console myself by believing that one need also have mechanical sense to do well, and my scores on that part of the test had been dismal.

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Announcing the Full Line-up of Spalding’s Festival of Contemporary Writing, Nov. 16-22

Spalding University’s Festival of Contemporary Writing, the state’s largest fall-spring reading series, takes place Saturday, November 16, through Friday, November 22, with faculty and alumni of the low-residency programs of Spalding’s School of Creative and Professional Writing. Bestselling graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang headlines the festival as Distinguished Visiting Writer. Yang is the author of the Printz Award-winning American Born Chinese and the National Book Award Finalist Boxers & Saints, a boxed set of graphic novels. Yang has served as a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.

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Listening for the Echo: Translating Alí Calderón’s “Democracia Mexicana”

Jeremy Paden, Spalding School of Writing Translation Faculty

A popular internet list in recent years is the top 10 most beautiful but untranslatable words. 侘寂, wabi-sabi, beautiful imperfection in Japanese. Tartle, Scottish for the hesitation caused by forgetting someone’s name when in the middle of introducing them. The German word Verschlimmbessern, making something worse while trying to fix it. These lists go on and on.

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“Good Bones” Poet Maggie Smith Joins the Faculty of Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing

[Photo credit: Devon Albeit Photography]

Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing is pleased to welcome award-winning poet and teacher Maggie Smith to our poetry faculty. Smith will deliver a poetry lecture during our Fall 2019 residency, November 15-24, and will mentor students in independent study. She joins award-winning poets Douglas Manuel, Keith S. Wilson, Debra Kang Dean, Lynnell Edwards, Erin Keane, Greg Pape, and Jeanie Thompson on faculty.

“Of course, everyone knows what a spectacular poet Maggie Smith is,” said School of Writing Chair Kathleen Driskell. “But what makes her perfect for Spalding is that’s she’s a committed and generous teacher who will provide expert instruction to our graduate writing students.”

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