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.
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 Jessica C. Hume, Ph.D., Spalding MFA Alumni 2007
In the late 1340s, the Black Plague swept through Italy, shutting down entire towns and decimating the population. At the height of the Plague, many people fled highly populated areas to the relative safety of the countryside, hoping to avoid the devastating (and often fatal) illness.
Almost eight hundred years later, Italy is again faced with the ravages of a cruel illness which keeps citizens isolated from one another, but the effects of which have stretched across the planet. Roughly one month ago, my university closed our campus in anticipation of the oncoming wave of the COVID 19 pandemic. As I drove home with my baby son from Louisville to our little homestead in Anderson County, I couldn’t help but think of those fourteenth-century plague refugees. I thought I felt a bit like they must have. I don’t intend here to analogize the 21st century COVID-19 pandemic with the medieval bubonic plague, but I think they must have wondered whether their flight to the country would protect them, what would happen to the friends and loved ones in the midst of the chaos, when they would see them again, what would be left when they returned, and how the world would be irrevocably changed. I felt that way a bit, too.
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.