Lee Upton is professor of English and writer-in-residence. One of her mentees, Ross Gay ’96, is a poet and instructor at Indiana University, Bloomington, and the MFA in poetry program, Drew University.
To mentor imaginative writers means engaging in an extreme form of listening. Mentoring is also about treating with respect the shape that each emerging writer’s work is taking while recommending that the writer read and re-read a range of authors, including those laboring in the same aesthetic territory as the student as well as authors
whose approach differs dramatically and as such may present unexpected directions. Always, I want students to recognize that the demands that creative writing places upon them can be exhilarating. Making powerful stories — that ancient and ever-new art — requires fusing talent with passion and craft to generate discoveries about our imperfect, mystifying, fragile lives, and that is work for nothing less than a lifetime.
“Beauty” appeared in New Madrid 6.2 (2011): 54.
I don’t know if I can say anything about mentoring better than these few lines from Thomas Lux’s poem “An Horatian Notion”: “You make the thing because you love the thing / and you love the thing because someone else loved it / enough to make you love it.” That’s about it, isn’t it? How lucky I feel to have been mentored in loving — poetry, language, a bird’s neck in fl ight. Yes: shown better how to love the world. Mentors all dear and important to me…. Ed Kerns and Lee Upton and Bernard Tiernan and Susan Blake.
LOVE, YOU GOT ME GOOD
From Bringing the Shovel Down