You are a professor. Where do you teach and what is your favorite course to teach?
teach at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. We have a Writing
Department separate from the English Department. I teach creative
writing. I love teaching our Poetry Workshop –
we have both an intermediate class and an advanced one. The
intermediate one is an especially good one to teach – students have
been introduced to poetry, but just barely. I get to show them some of
the wonderful contemporary poets writing today & unleash
them to write some poems.
Often I give “prompts” for poems – it is a
little less terrifying to have an assignment rather than just being told
to “Write a poem.” Students can write list poems, do a “found” poem;
they write about a work of art, doing an “ekphrastic”
poem. There are many fun assignments, as well as just trying a poem
“imitating Tony Hoagland, or Mary Oliver.” We do workshops of student
poems, and they are learning a lot about how to read poems carefully and
give comments (constructive ones) to other students.
By the end of the course, students put together a portfolio of their
work. They can make astounding progress in the course, and it is often
thrilling to see their growth as writers.
poets have influenced you to become the strong poet you are today, and are there any specific poets/poems that inspired you to write this
have certainly been influenced by my own teachers – Nelson Bentley,
Richard Hugo, Madeline DeFrees, Stanley Plumly, and Cynthia Macdonald,
as well as
Edward Hirsch. All of these teachers value lyrical poems that have
surprising turns of language and encourage poems that try to plumb
emotional depths. I continue in that tradition, I’d say.
I’m not sure
there are particular models I have in mind for the chapbook
– maybe the work of Jane Hirshfield. She’s a California poet whose
work I greatly admire, and I studied with her, briefly, at a poetry
workshop in Napa Valley.
have written other poetry books; what got you started in writing
chapbooks? And what is different about this chapbook compared to those
you have done in the past?
chapbook is a briefer collection of poems – and chapbooks have become
very popular today. I see it as an opportunity to put a small collection
together, combining poems in a different
way from a long, full collection. The poems in Wreath for the Red
Admiralhave not appeared together before – and I think of a collection
of poems as a kind of narrative, perhaps, with an emotional arc of some
kind. A reader is invited in at the beginning
of the collection, and then introduced to some issues or “problems,” if
you will, and then carried along on a journey of reading poems,
hopefully reaching a kind of resolution at some point, a satisfying
moment, perhaps, of insight or resolution. That’s what
I hope for with this small book.
only done one previous chapbook. That was a somewhat different grouping
because the editors specifically wanted Michigan or Midwest poems. I
put them together with that intention, more
than having an emotional arc.
Your books seem to focus on nature. Is there a reason for that?
there is nature in these poems – and that’s because the imagery of
nature intrigues me, inspires me, causes me to think and mull and muse
about things – and then I hope there are
deeper connections found. So I would resist, for example, someone
saying, “Oh, that’s a poem about bird nests in winter.” Yes, and no. It
does start with images of bird nests but I hope there is reflection,
pondering, and wondering that takes the reader on
a journey to some other realization – a way of seeing something new,
or in a new way.
Wreath for the Red Admiral is available through lulu.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and can be ordered from fine booksellers everywhere.
Sons grow up playing war
Coming to dinner with mothers at home.
Sons will go off to far away wars
Leaving mothers to live alone.
Enough mothers lost their sons
In far away battles of retort
For the mothers who lost sons
To get together for support.
The Gold Star Mothers
Sought to ease the pain.
The Gold Star Mothers
Brought grieving mothers back again.
Note: “The Gold Star Mothers” is excerpted from Mothers Forever, a book of poetry examining the lives of three characters
beginning in 1887 and ending in 1980. Each character loses a son in either
World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War. To help them cope with
their grief, each joined an organization called the American Gold Star Mothers,
whose purpose is to help mothers manage the pain of losing a child through
military service and to support hospitalized veterans. This poem takes place in
1946 as Martha Jackson is becoming a Gold Star mother after her son was killed
as a soldier serving as part of the Red Ball Express during World War II.
Chris Hancock lives in Kennett Square, PA and teaches Health and
Physical Education. His writing and photography can be seen at chrishancock789.com.
It’s hard to
have a heart to heart
with a cow,
are like beautiful
sailing through red
can be a nuisance,
nuisance. They roam our streets
as they see
fit. One brilliant cow
she got shot
Presbyterian Church yard.
long dresses peeve
splat on wood sidewalks.
gangsters run the town.
scare them. We think
modern. After all,
late 1800s. Progress
merchants’ bald heads.
where Lake Superior,
Unsalted Sea, freezes
so that we
can walk to Madeline Island,
no fear of
like gods that stare
Kenneth Pobo had three new books in 2015: When The Light Turns Green
(Spruce Alley Press), Bend of Quiet (Blue Light Press), and Booking
Rooms in the Kuiper Belt (Urban Farmhouse Press). He teaches creative
writing and English at Widener University. He gardens, is somewhat of
an authority on Tommy James and the Shondells, and read Hardy’s
Return of the Native this June.