Tell us a bit about yourself! Where are you from originally, and what brought you to New York?
I grew up on the Texas coast, where I spent nearly every weekend swimming at the beach. I lived in North Texas after college, where I taught high school English and coached softball and volleyball. I moved to New York in 2014 to get my master’s degree in poetry at The New School.
What was your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subjects were English, Art, and Spanish.
Is there a particular lesson or concept that you remember learning very clearly, either because of the way that it was taught, the way you came to understand it, or the way it changed the way you look at the world? Tell us about that experience.
When I was twenty years old, I moved to England to study at the University of Leeds. I was a young American poet, and I wanted to prove myself. Though I wrote a lot, I was hesitant to call myself a writer. I thought I had to earn the title by being published, winning awards, and having a little fame.
My new friend Beth challenged my idea of success. She was a writer and artist who spent all her time (gasp!) writing and making art. She wasn’t concerned with making the right impression on the right people; she considered herself a successful writer because she wrote every day.
We spent a lot of time together then, poking away at old-fashioned typewriters and printing little chapbooks of our own poetry. Thanks to Beth, I learned to take ownership of my dreams, instead of waiting for someone else to give me permission to be the writer I knew I was.
What is your favorite book?
My favorite fiction book is The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It was recommended to me by my high school English teacher (she was a genius, but that’s another story). The first time I read the book, I swear I didn’t look up from the pages once. It’s dark and fascinating, and the characters are artfully built.
My favorite book of poetry is Reconnaissance by Carl Phillips. I’m astounded by the leaps he makes in poetry; it’s like watching a magician conjure a miracle. I don’t know how he does it, but I’m glad I’m in his audience.
What’s one piece of advice you’d like to give to every student reading this?
Find a kind of creative practice that makes you happy, something that sends you into the zone where nothing else exists. Maybe you like to write, draw, dance, make films, sing, make puppets, sew, tell jokes— the possibilities are endless— but make regular time for that in your life. I think nothing satisfies human beings like the act of creation, and no matter what happens in your life, relationships, careers, you can always have that little zone for yourself.
What’s your favorite word?
This is a difficult question for a poet. I keep a running list of words that interest me in my notebook, so I’ll lift my answer from that: plum, notch, coin, pillowslip, la boca (spanish for mouth)
How do you spend your free time?
I write, read, swim, bike, doodle, cook, watch Texas Rangers baseball, and look at Doug the Pug’s Instagram.
What does learning mean in your life?
Learning means all the doors are open and I can do anything.