Over my long career as a writer and mentor, I’ve been exceedingly passionate about both disciplines. I take in the work of others, on an almost physical level, in order to apprehend its most complex dimensions. I’ve published six or seven volumes of poetry, a memoir, a collection of short stories. I’ve taught primarily at Boston College, but also in Fairfield University’s low-res MFA Program.
What excites you about writing? How has it affected your life?
Writing has demanded the utmost of my capacities. It’s an exertion I particularly love. I’ve always found it thrilling and difficult. It has created the particular lens through which I see the world—one that heightens, clarifies, allows for the partial explanation for the most perplexing aspects of experience. I’ve always been passionate about language, reading, all of which has greatly magnified my aesthetic sense and my sense of what it means to be human.
What mindset does a writer need to continue to grow and learn?
An intense curiosity, a fluid imagination, the ability to stare, fervently and with wonder, at the smallest of things—from a stone, to a tree, and one’s own mother. A writer needs to both cultivate and protect one’s sensibility. To see and hear and feel with utmost clarity. And to possess that uncanny drive to put words down on a page in a particular order as an expression of the quandaries of our very human experience.
What makes a good writing mentor?
The capacity to pay utmost and strict attention to what’s on the page. To listen, heartily, to the words and more so to the voice behind them. It’s the mentor’s work to intuit possibility, to guide the writer toward what might be the highest expression of any particular work, to not impose one’s one design upon it. The hope is to liberate the poem or story—it’s an evolutionary process, one that’s thrilling to embark upon.
What is your style of feedback?
I provide fastidious notes, after several extremely close readings. These notes, on and off the page, are meant to stimulate both the work and a conversation about the work. I also love to direct the writer toward reading other poems and or stories which may contribute toward the progress of the work at hand. I try to be exhaustive, yet not overwhelming with my comments. It’s a back and forth exchange as most pieces of writing will, almost necessarily, undergo the work of revision.