Well, for me, the main thing I do as a teacher is facilitate a space in which students can explore, find, and deepen their connection to the art. In MFA programs, I tell my students they’re not here to be a literary critic, they’re not here to be policemen or politicians, they’re not here to be social engineers. They’re here to be artists, and to practice as artists. And so, the environment I try to create is one of generous attention to each other’s work, notion that what is of fundamental importance is poetry itself, not particularly what anybody is doing. It’s called poetry workshop, it’s not called my poetry workshop.


So, on one hand I want them to feel radically and insanely confident, because you kind of have to — to be that way, to write a poem. But I also want them to feel profound humility, that they’re attempting to add something to an art that has been around as long as language has been around. And that muse which we all have to absorb can either be utterly crippling, or it can be liberating, knowing that — and I find it liberating, because it means that whenever I sit down to write, whenever I try to welcome poetry, I’m already collaborating with a genius, the genius is the language, and the language is already poetry.

Return to Index