In the Spotlight
UNC Greensboro, Associate Director, MFA Writing Program
Greensboro, NC Member Since: 2000
About: Terry L. Kennedy is the author of the poetry collection, New River Breakdown. He currently serves as the Associate Director of the MFA Writing Program at UNC Greensboro and as Editor of the online journal storySouth.
What is the best writing advice that you dispense to your students?
Read indiscriminately and widely.
What is the best career advice that you dispense to your students?
You really need to do your research and focus your submissions. Don’t send your work somewhere just because of their circulation or perceived prestige. Read issues of the literary magazines you’re considering before you send them your work. Do you like the work they publish? Do they publish work similar to yours? If they do, be sure to read and follow the submission guidelines.
Describe your writing process.
When I have the time to write, I really immerse myself in it for long stretches. I like to start composing in longhand, but as I’m redrafting and revising, I move pretty systematically from journals to my royal portable typewriter, to the computer, and back again. There’s something about changing the medium for each draft that opens up the work for me.
What is the greatest compliment that you could ever receive about your writing?
I’ve been working on a series of elegies, and after a reading last fall, someone told me that I wrote about really difficult topics but that the poems seem to shine a positive light, that the work helped them find something hopeful in a place that had previously seemed hopeless. I don’t think that anyone could say something nicer about my work than that.
What is your favorite line from a book?
“I believe Icarus was not falling as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.”
Jack Gilbert from “Failing and Flying”
What would be your advice to new AWP members on how to make the most of their membership?
Attend the conference! You’ll never have such a great opportunity to spend time with people who care about what you care about.
What is your favorite AWP Conference memory?
At the start of the AWP conference in Washington, DC, I was sitting in the hotel restaurant with my boss and mentor, Jim Clark. It was a great table because you could see everyone entering and leaving the hotel. Within an hour, we had been joined by old friends, students, a few editors, and a couple of Pulitzer Prize-winning poets—people at all stages of their careers enjoying each other’s company. This sort of unplanned fellowship is what AWP is all about for me.