My career as a writer began in poetry. I have a bachelor’s degree in poetry from Northwestern and a master’s degree in poetry from the writing seminars at Johns Hopkins—about as fine a formal education as one can possibly have in the poetic arts. I taught poetry for years and years, to students in both middle school and college, and then—sadly—I became disenchanted with the genre.
In time, however, I learned that it wasn’t poetry itself that I fell out of love with—it was being a poet. The work was so solitary, so ascetic, so minimal: words compressed into diamonds, then cut and set in platinum. (The good stuff, anyway, not what passes for poetry these days, most of which strikes me as rubbish.) I need collaboration. I need immediacy. I need ritual. Theater gave me all those things.
But poems—oh, poems… they still make me swoon. I keep going back to them, even though it’s been more than a decade since I wrote one, and reading them when I most need inspiration. I think the rhythmic way I wrote—the lyric tradition in which I was educated—continues to make its mark on my dialogue today. Symbol, too, is immeasurably important in my dramatic work. Some of what I learned I still rely on.
“It is difficult to get the news from poems,” write William Carlos Williams, “yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” Maybe I found exactly what I needed.