Morri Creech is the author of three collections of poetry: Paper Cathedrals (Kent State University Press, 2001), Field Knowledge (Waywiser, 2006), and The Sleep of Reason (Waywiser, 2013), which was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize. A recipient of NEA and Ruth Lilly Fellowships, as well as grants from the North Carolina and Louisiana Arts Councils, he is the Writer-in-Residence at Queens University of Charlotte.
At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference, Morri will lead the Master Class in Poetry workshop. Officially titled "Formal Poetry," this class will consider the expressive possibilities of formal poetry, and participants will investigate how meter, rhyme, and fixed forms such as the sonnet and villanelle can help to generate new and exciting work. Morri will distribute examples, and the class will analyze the formal properties of works by established authors before writing their own poems. The goal is to have writers leave the workshop with the beginnings of at least one new poem. Register now!
If you could be a different author, living or dead, who would you be?
I’d like to be W. B. Yeats. I love the way he takes everything from his life—his spirituality, politics, friendships, love life, historical milieu—and turns it into poetry.
Give us three adjectives you hope critics use to describe your next book.
Well-crafted, intelligent, moving.
What’s one piece of advice no one gave you when you were starting out, that you wish they had?
Don’t bully the muse. In other words, try to figure out what the poem wants to say, not what you want it to say.
In 2013, Forbes named Charlotte among its list of Best Places for Business and Careers. What makes Charlotte such a vibrant place to visit and live?
Definitely the diversity of people here. I have friends who are glass artists, concrete artists, poets, computer designers—and who come from all over the place. Charlotte is a great nexus for meeting people with a wide range of interests. (The restaurants are great too.)
Why do you feel it's important for writers to attend conferences such as the NCWN Fall Conference?
Conferences like this give writers new strategies and techniques to work with, help polish their work, and save time on the learning curve, providing instruction on things that might take a writer years to figure out on their own.
Saturday's "Brilliant at Breakfast" panel discussion is titled, "Words in Civic Life." Does creative writing have a role to play outside the covers of a book?
Absolutely. Particularly poetry, which is an aural medium and can be shared through the spoken word—it’s not just the page that counts.
What do you hope attendees takeaway from the conference, especially if they sign up for your workshop?
I hope they will take away specific ideas for how to improve their poems, and new techniques to generate new material—skill in meter and form that perhaps they haven’t considered using before.
What does it mean for writers to "Network?" Any tips?
I don’t have any tips for this; I’m terrible at “networking.” But if you admire a person’s work, don’t be shy about reaching out to them. Several of my literary friendships spring from my e-mailing or writing poets whom I admire and striking up a conversation.
Do you read literary journals? What are some of your favorites?
I don’t read a lot of journals, but I like Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, The Southwest Review, and Tin House.
Can writing be taught?
It can be shaped. And specific techniques—lineation, stanzaic structure, meter, rhyme, fixed forms, things like that—can definitely be taught.
Who has influenced your writing style the most?
W. B. Yeats and W. H. Auden. In terms of contemporary poets, it would be Derek Mahon, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, Richard Wilbur, John Wood, and Anthony Hecht.
Have you ever had writer’s block? What is one thing that helped you overcome it?
I get writer’s block all the time. In fact, I have it now. The only thing for it is to keep pushing against the wall until the wall disappears. William Stafford used to say that when he couldn’t write well, he would “lower his standards.” That’s important: if you’re not willing to write badly, you won’t write well. Turn off the editor in your brain and just put something down. Don’t worry about the quality at first. That’s what revision is for. And sometimes you have to write badly just to clear the throat. The key is to write something.
Someone writes an un-authorized biography about your life. What would the title be?
A Cultivation of Obscurity.
Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2014 Fall Conference is now open.