#AWP18 Featured Presenter Q&A with Rick Barot

AWP | February 2018

Event Title: A Reading by Rick Barot, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, and Patricia Spears Jones, Sponsored by Poets House
Description: Join Poets House for a reading by three award-winning poets, representing the rich diversity of contemporary American poetry and range of lyric and sonic landscapes. A conversation about their work and the role of poetry in our culture will follow the reading. Executive Director Lee Briccetti will introduce the event. In 2017-2018, Poets House, a national poetry library and literary center based in New York, celebrates its 30th Anniversary.
Participants: Rick Barot, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Patricia Spears Jones
Location: Ballroom B, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Date & Time: Friday, March 9, 4:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.    

Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
A: I could list several dozen books that were important to me this past year, but I’ll name just three in three genres: Camille Dungy’s Guidebook to Relative Strangers, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees, and Danez Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead. As a reader, teacher, writer, and citizen—I was moved and provoked by all of these books.

Q: What are a writer’s main responsibilities in this particular cultural moment?
A: Despite the crises that seem to face us day after day, I don’t believe in having set responsibilities for writers. Given the urgencies within the self and the emergencies surrounding the self, each writer has to figure out his or her way into the work and the purpose of that work.  These days I keep thinking of a couple lines from Louise Glück’s poem, “Memoir,” as a kind of mantra for myself: “A few words were all I needed: / nourish, sustain, attack.”

Q: Has public funding for the arts made a difference in your life and career as a writer?
A: In fact, I can’t think of any period in my life as a writer that hasn’t been touched by public funding for the arts. Early in my career, before I published a book, I received a grant from the NEA—and this validation was transformative for me. Also, the publications that have printed my work, the publisher of my books, the organizations and institutions that have supported me, the communities I have belonged to—all of these have crucially received public funding.

Q: When AWP was founded in 1967, there were a dozen creative writing programs, now there are approximately 1,800 undergraduate and graduate programs. What do you think has changed for readers and writers since creative writing became ascendant as an academic discipline?
A: I’m not someone who bemoans the proliferation of creative writing programs—or the proliferation of creative writing itself—in our schools. And I don’t buy the usual charge that the literary world has become over-professionalized or dreadfully competitive. What I see instead is an enlargement of the chorus, more spaces for various voices to be heard, more expressive agency for people to insist on who they are, and incredibly greater potential for writing to be a source of solace, beauty, and resistance. 


Rick BarotRick Barot has published three volumes of poetry: The Darker FallWant, which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and won the 2009 Grub Street Book Prize; and Chord, which received the UNT Rilke Prize, the PEN Open Book Award, and the Publishing Triangle’s Thom Gunn Award. Chord was also a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. Bartot directs The Rainier Writing Workshop, the low-residency MFA program in creative writing at Pacific Lutheran University and is the poetry editor for New England Review. In 2016, he received a poetry fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation.

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