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Fall Conference 2022 Faculty Spotlight: An Interview with Melissa Crowe

We are excited that Melissa Crowe will join us as faculty in poetry for this year’s Fall Conference. Crowe will lead a poetics course titled Breed a Needle: Revision as Composition. A description of her course is listed at the end of this interview.

Melissa Crowe is the author of Dear Terror, Dear Splendor (University of Wisconsin Press, 2019) and her second book of poems, Lo, is forthcoming (University of Iowa Press, 2023). Her work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in the New England Review, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and Shenandoah, among other journals, and she was the 2021 winner of the Robert H. Winner Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. She coordinates the MFA program at UNC Wilmington, where she teaches poetry and publishing.

Communications Director Katherine O’Hara spoke with Crowe about literary advocacy, literary arts organizations, and how she fosters time outside of writing.

Katherine O’Hara: In light of our current climate and with book bans across the country, what does it feel like to be a writer right now? What are writers’ responsibilities to the wider community?

Melissa Crowe: For me, no matter what is happening at a particular historical moment, it feels good to be a poet. Poetry is a place of pleasure and mystery and surprise, a way to maintain a loving connection to the world and other people without ignoring the inescapable pain of living. Poems are a place where I can say, over and over, “This is lovely, and it hurts.” Some moments—this one, maybe—make my own need for poems (to write them, to read them, to share them) feel more urgent, but my need is pretty steady, and my gratitude to poetry for the way it sustains us is huge and steady.

KOH: What do you appreciate about literary arts organization programs like the North Carolina Writers’ Network?

MC: Writing can feel like a wholly solitary vocation, and so often emerging writers struggle to locate the resources they need in order to develop their skills and find their audience. The North Carolina Writers Network does a fantastic job of connecting NC writers, building a community where they can feel engaged and supported, and sharing the kind of opportunities that foster growth and success.

KOH: When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend the weekend? What are books or hobbies you’ve enjoyed lately?

MC: I like to make things, and if I’m not writing poems, I want to be doing something with my hands. Hand sewing is a particularly pleasurable pastime for me because it’s so tactile (I love fabric!), and the series of small, low-stakes creative decisions I get to make when I’m sewing feels adjacent to writing but different enough to provide relief from all that’s at stake on the page.

Breed a Needle: Revision as Composition (poetry) with Melissa Crowe

On the subject of “blundering” as a generative act, the poet Kay Ryan writes that “rooting around in a haystack long and fruitlessly enough could conceivably breed a needle.” While we’re accustomed, perhaps, to regarding revision as the act of polishing what has already been written, in this session we’ll experiment with revision as a mode of composition, a process of discovery, a deep and persistent engagement with the draft. Through a series of exercises designed to keep us returning to and reimagining our work, we’ll blunder together in pursuit of the wildest, most finely crafted poems possible.

Learn more about Fall Conference 2022, including how to register for Crowe’s course and others, here.