Q: How long have you been teaching at Heidelberg? What do you enjoy about teaching or being here that’s kept you here?
I came in the fall of 1982 teaching as an adjunct while working on my Ph.D. There’s a shared leadership in the department, not a hierarchy…This is an inviting place to work. The English majors have been wonderful and diverse writers. Also, Ruth [Wahlstrom’s] mentorship and friendship is irreplaceable. I might also add that she edited my poetry collection, Promontory Pines, which was a sabbatical project I completed in 2006.
Q: Describe your “approach” to teaching in one word.
Democratic. I try to hold class with as little ceremony—but as much courtesy—as possible.
Q: Langston Hughes or Zora Neale Hurston?
Hurston was so life-affirming and appeals to me because of her celebration of the Earth; she also loved and studied language. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, the different levels of language are profound. However, I do honor Hughes and his Jazz and Blues-inflicted poetry.
Q: Students who have you for class quickly learn about your love of poetry, so who’s your favorite poet (besides Emily Dickinson) and why?
Robert Bly. Like myself and Dr. Wahlstrom, he’s a Minnesotan. His writing is plain yet mystical, he’s a philosophical landscaper, and he promotes world poetry. I once mailed him Pines and he sent back two autographed copies of his own books.
Q: Any advice for students—current or future?
Please learn the parts of speech and how to use punctuation, so that when you come to write your poems, your lines won’t be embarrassed by their creator.
- Interview by Matt Echelberry '12