I teach creative writing as the art that it is. Teachers of any art can’t implant true originality, or stoke the “fire in the belly” without the help of ready kindling, but they can nurture, through attentive challenge, the promise of apprentice artists. That dynamic involves the student’s willingness to recognize critique as a kind of caring, and the teacher’s alertness to the constraints and capacities of the apprentice. The way a painter teaches studio art, or guitar instructors position their students’ fingers on the frets—that’s how good creative writing mentors teach. And they don’t confuse rigor with ruthlessness, even as they know artists must be ruthless with themselves. Yes, they have to provide an honest appraisal of the merits of a student’s work-in-progress—promising or unpromising—but that can be done with what Seamus Heaney beautifully calls “care for the emotional tissues.”
I'm interested in how poetic traditions of all sort live inside our own work. I don’t believe that creative writing exists without creative, constant, and catholic reading. I know of no serious writer who didn’t first love reading.
When a poem is finished, it is a gift that no longer belongs to the poet.