INTERVIEWS & SPOTLIGHTS: REBECCA MORGAN FRANK
Rebecca Morgan Frank is the author of four books of poems: Oh You Robot Saints, Sometimes We’re All Living in a Foreign Country, and The Spokes of Venus, all from Carnegie Mellon University Press, and Little Murders Everywhere (Salmon Poetry), a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Her poems have appeared in such places as The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, and The Kenyon Review, and her collaborations with composers are performed widely. Co-founder and editor of the journal Memorious, she teaches in Northwestern University’s MFA program in Prose & Poetry and is the writer-in-residence at the Hemingway Birthplace outside of Chicago.
Read the FAWC interview with her below, and register for her 24PearlStreet course The Art of Getting Unstuck: Writing Your Way Back Into the Poem, October 11 – 15, 2021
How does viewing a poet’s first and final draft illuminate their journey? Have you ever gone back to a first draft of a finished poem and worked your way to a different final version?
What I love about reading a first draft of a published poem is how it reveals both the seed of an individual poem and the path of discovery the poet has followed to get to what they consider a final draft. I also think it shows the many possibilities of each poem, its many possible futures. There is no one direction for a poem to go, and that is what makes revision so thrilling (and challenging!) My poem “The Girlfriend Elegies” had a former “finished” version many years before I went back to it and worked my way to a very different final form; the new revision process began with me finding the right first line.
You make art not only as a poet but also in collaboration with composers. What is it about the melody or lyricism of both music and verse that lends itself to getting out of a creative rut?
I think when we are feeling stuck, anyone who is creating in any art form can inspire us, whether through their work or their process. As poets, we also make music and we also make images, so it makes sense that we often turn to these sister arts. When you’re feeling stuck, looking at art or listening to music can unlock emotions, thoughts, or narratives to work with.
Over the course of the pandemic, watching composers and performers who I collaborate with find innovative ways to still create, collaborate, and find audiences was so moving and motivating. It was a reminder that we can find ways to create, to do what we love, in many conditions.
How important are other people in getting a writer unstuck? Whether a writing group, an editor, a friend or family member with a sympathetic ear?
I think other people are essential for most of us. What I have found as a writer, teacher, and consultant is that we all need encouragement, validation, or even permission– for someone to say writing poetry is a real and valuable pursuit. A writer’s path is also solitary and can come with challenges such as handling rejections or struggling to find the time to do this thing we love. We may need others to support us through this or to provide us with deadlines and audiences. One of my closest and most supportive writer friends is someone I met in a weeklong workshop back in 2004, and we have encouraged one another, and traded work, ever since. I love when I see my students forge these kinds of writerly connections, whether within a class or beyond it, because I know how vital such support can be.
This is your first time teaching with The Fine Arts Work Center and 24PearlStreet. What are some hopes you have for the course, and what do you hope your students take away from the experience?
I have seen so many friends, and writers on social media, report their struggles with writing over the last 20 months, and I hope that this class will offer a space for poets to return to their writing with fresh approaches and to feel the joy of writing, of generating new work, again. Our live virtual meetings will provide an opportunity to not only break out of isolation, but to carve out time and space for writing. So much of getting “unstuck” is about that first act of returning pen to page.
I also have gathered so many writing prompts and activities over my years of teaching, and I love the idea of a class that lets me pull out all the stops and send writers home with many tools to keep them writing in the year ahead.
Register now for The Art of Getting Unstuck: Writing Your Way Back Into the Poem, October 11 – 15, 2021
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