Life As An Emerging Poet
June 4, 2012, by Inprint Staff
As summer begins, a pool of recent grads, especially those with liberal arts or creative writing graduate degrees, will begin to ponder the timeless question—What do I do with this degree?
At Inprint, we are lucky because we interact with graduate students in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston all the time. We are proud to be able to give fellowships, prizes, and other support to these students because we know how important they are to the literary life of this city; we know how much they give back to the community; and we know how important they are to the creative world in general. We can’t help but feel pride as they graduate and go forth into the universe and fulfill their artistic destinies. It isn’t easy for them–the publishing world and the academic creative writing job market is a competitive one, and for poets it is often tougher.
This week, however, we get to highlight two UH Creative Writing Program alums who are making their mark in the world of poetry. Lauren Berry and Glenn Shaheen, authors, respectively, of the poetry collections, The Lifting Dress and Predatory, will read from their work on Thursday, June 7, 7 pm at Brazos Bookstore. For more information, visit www.brazosbookstore.com.
We had a chance to talk to Glenn over the weekend.
Inprint: Glenn, can you tell us a little bit more about your and Lauren’s Texas book tour? What will you be reading from? You have old friends and professors in Houston, does reading in front of them have more meaning for you or does it make you more nervous?
Glenn: We’re just hitting up a few places in east/north Texas, starting with Houston, then moving on to Austin, Dallas, and Denton. We’ll both be reading from our new (and only) books, Predatory (me) and The Lifting Dress (Lauren). Probably some new stuff, too, though that’s always nerve wracking, but maybe in a good way.
Coming back to read in Houston is definitely meaningful for me–I spent six years there, and it’s a great city with a great literary scene. I won’t be nervous reading in front of the friends and mentors I have there, except that I’ll worry that they may have heard a few of the poems before. Most of my new poems are actually about Houston, so it will be interesting to see the Houstonian reaction to those.
Inprint: Can you tell us what you are doing now? Is life after graduate school what you expected?
Glenn: Before I started the PhD at Western Michigan University, I taught at Prairie View A&M University for a couple years. The biggest adjustment was that I didn’t have the haven of the workshop, a place in which I could always present new work and get feedback. Luckily there were a few friends, graduates of the Houston program, who stuck around Space City, so we formed writing groups, or just got coffee and discussed work, or hung out at bars and lamented/celebrated the direction of capital ‘P’ Poetry. That’s one of the terrific things about the University of Houston–the quality of fellow graduate students is so great, and you spend as much time making personal connections with like-minded writers as you do writing papers or grading freshman writing that you can just keep the program going after it’s officially ‘over’ and the degree is awarded.
Lauren Berry and Glenn Shaheen, authors of the poetry collections, The Lifting Dress and Predatory, will read from their work on Thursday, June 7, 7 pm at Brazos Bookstore. For more information, visit www.brazosbookstore.com.
Inprint: I saw that you are a doctoral candidate at Western Michigan University. How does that experience compare to your time in Houston?
Glenn: Well, I didn’t have to shovel as much snow in Houston as I did this past year in Kalamazoo, that’s for sure. WMU’s a great school, but very different from UH. The size is probably the biggest thing. My fiancee, a fiction graduate of UH, and I were two of the three creative writing PhDs total admitted this past year, for example. It’s really intimate in that sense, although I never felt that Houston was unintimate, and at Houston you have a much larger selection of creative writing classes from which to choose. I’m definitely glad to experience both of these programs, aesthetically speaking and size-wise.
Inprint: Finally, the content and inspiration for your poetry seems to come from many directions. Who are your poetry heroes?
Glenn: Sylvia Plath is always going to be number one for me, as cliche as that might sound. Ariel was the first book of poetry that moved me, and even though ninth grade students all over everywhere probably feel the same way, it’s still got that power every time I open it. William Blake is another hero, and Berryman, and also Jane Hirshfield and Quan Barry, to pick living poets. It’s so hard to pick!
Click here to learn more about Glenn’s poetry and read one of his poems, featured by Poetry Society of America.