You got an MFA at Warren Wilson after moving to Louisville, where you currently live. What made you decide to do so, and how do you think doing a low-residency program impacted your MFA experience and the writing you produced during those years?
At the time I decided to apply to Warren Wilson, I was actually in residence at the Vermont Studio Center. It was July 2010, and I had just completed a very difficult year teaching high school. My tenure there had drained most of my creative energy, and my time in Vermont, doing nothing but writing and the occasional hike, made me realize that this was the life I wanted to lead.
At the time, I was reading Heather McHugh’s poems, and also Joe Wenderoth who had studied at Warren Wilson. I wrote Joe to ask him what he had thought of the program, and he was nothing but positive. I also wrote Heather, and she asked me to send her some poems. Once she read them, she told me to apply, and that she’d help by writing a letter to put in my file. Before I left Vermont, I resigned from my public school job. Continue reading
Which came first for you, poetry or science? Or did you have to choose between the two at some point?
It was always both. When I was a kid, I tromped through the woods all day, which led to a curiosity about the natural world – but also, as soon as I could read, I was memorizing poems. In my senior year of college, I used to leave a class on Shakespeare’s histories, pull rubber boots out of my backpack, and go out to net fish in a tidal bay as part of an ecology course. The strange thing is that nobody ever asked me to choose – it was always completely acceptable that I was studying wildlife management but also constantly reading and writing poetry. Continue reading
Why did you decide to get your first M.F.A.? And then what prompted the second?
Well, my first go-around was never actually completed. I ended up with only a “Masters” – no of the “Fine Arts” attached. Really, I guess after finishing my Bachelor’s in journalism I decided I wanted to be a “real writer.” In fact, I remember telling friends that exact thing – like being a journalist was some sort of joke. I was obsessed with Hunter Thompson, and understanding that living life was the real substance that made good writing great, I wanted to embark on some strange adventure. It ended up being San Francisco – a now defunct hippy college called “New College of California” that was started by a Jesuit Priest in his living room in the seventies. It was a nightmare – jail, married and divorced, but I did end up with a great dog named Joe, a degree and a passion for writing that kept me going. Continue reading