Silliest classroom moment?
In the old days I used to make coffee in the classroom for the whole class. On a particular day in Introduction to Creative Writing, I was delivering what I thought was a superb lecture (I rarely deliver lectures, let alone superb ones) on metaphor. At the climax of my talk, a student raised his hand with enthusiasm, I assumed to make a brilliant comment inspired by my claims about metaphor. “Yes?” I asked, my cheeks flaring with inspiration. “Um, do you have any cream for this coffee?” he asked.
This was only surpassed by the student who brought a beach chair to class, set it up in the middle of Humphrey House Lounge, sat down, and proceeded to eat an entire rotisserie chicken, suck the bones clean, and lick the grease off of each of his fingers while I talked about Walt Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric.”
Advice you can't stop giving?
Learn how to cook for yourself, how to be comfortably alone, and how to fix a toilet with a paperclip—not necessarily in that order. And learn traditional poetic forms, from the haiku to the sestina to the sonnet. You may be living in an abandoned potato chip delivery van somewhere in South Dakota without a friend in the world, and maybe even your dog ran away, but you’ll always have the sestina.
Advice you're eternally grateful you received?
When I met my mentor Conrad Hilberry, a former Kalamazoo College professor, I was sixteen and attending a rural high school. He was serving as a poet-in-the-schools and came to my high school to meet me, as he’d read one of my poems I’d audaciously submitted to a contest for which he was a judge. “Do you have any more of these?” he asked, meaning poems. I ran home and got my stash of dog-eared, grass-stained pages which I kept locked away in my dead father’s briefcase. At that time I didn’t know there was such a thing as a stanza. I’d never heard of form except in reference to Maidenform bras. My poems were written on a manual typewriter with a nearly spent ribbon; they meandered down the page like a lost dog. “How about you try a straight left margin?” Con suggested in that way he has of telling you something you should have already known without making you feel like a fool. And he was right—that straight left margin was just the boundary I needed. I followed it like a road out of my hometown. It brought me to Kalamazoo College and Spain, New York City and Santa Fe, the Rocky Mountains and Robert Frost’s house in New Hampshire. Now I teach in the same room in which I was taught by Con so many years ago.
Diane Seuss was born in Michigan City, Indiana and raised in Edwardsburg and Niles, Michigan. Her people are old school barbers, small town morticians, telephone operators, nurses, teachers, one-eyed pool players, and furniture salespeople (specializing in the swivel rocker). She attended Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University, where she received her MSW. Her first book, It Blows You Hollow, was published by New Issues Press in 1998. Her second collection, Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open, received the Juniper Prize for Poetry and was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2010. Her third book, Four-Legged Girl, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in Fall 2015. Seuss has published widely in literary magazines. Her work has won several prizes, including the Pushcart Prize (2013), and one of her poems was included in The Best American Poetry 2014. She was the MacLean Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Department of English at Colorado College in 2012. She has been on the faculty at Kalamazoo College since 1988.
Introduction to Creative Writing
First Year Seminar