ShareThis Page

Laura Patterson positive poetry still has a place

Shirley McMarlin
| Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, 8:57 p.m.
Laura Patterson is a poet and professor of English at Seton Hill University in Greensburg.
Submitted
Laura Patterson is a poet and professor of English at Seton Hill University in Greensburg.

Laura Patterson is a professor of English at Seton Hill University in Greensburg. The Raleigh, N.C., native did her undergraduate studies at Princeton University and earned master's and doctoral degrees at Vanderbilt University. Her areas of specialization include 19th- and 20th-century American literature, southern literature, women's literature and feminist theory.

Her scholarly writings include titles like “From Courtship to Kitchen: Radical Domesticity in Twentieth-Century Southern Women's Fiction.”

Lest that all gets too weighty, Patterson writes poetry in what she calls a “quirky, bold voice.” She's working on a book-length collection of poems with water as the common theme.

Question: What else can you tell us about your poetry?

Answer: I'm very interested in place. Often, my poems start with a place. I have a lot of poems that are set in Greensburg and many that are set in North Carolina, where I grew up, especially on the coast. I spent a lot of time on the coast. I'm interested in natural imagery and weather imagery.

I'm interested in human relationships, family stories and voice. I think my poems have a kind of quirky, bold voice, a little bit in-your-face, much more so than I am. I'm more mild-mannered and my poems are a little more out there.

Q: Do you write in a particular form?

A: Lately I've been working with really short forms, 12 lines or under, very boiled-down, little poems. Trying to see if it's possible to say what I want to say in fewer words instead of more. It's hard to do. What can you take out and still have what you need?

Q: How did you first become interested in verse?

A: I remember in fourth grade writing a poem about frogs and my teacher praised it, so I immediately thought, hey, maybe this is something I should keep doing.

As an undergraduate, I took a poetry seminar with Paul Muldoon that was amazing. He's an Irish poet, Pulitzer Prize winner, really beautiful work.

He was so kind to us as students and treated us like we were already poets, even though we were just starting out. He did wonderful readings of our work and gave us a lot of feedback and pushed us hard, made us write hard forms like sestinas. That inspired me early on to keep going.

Q: Whose poetry resonates with you?

A: As a teenager, I read a lot of Sylvia Plath, which I think is common with teenage girls. But her work stays with me. I think it stands up over time.

Q: By its nature, poetry is a form that can take some contemplation to understand and appreciate. In an age obsessed with rapid communication, does poetry still have a place?

A: I think it does. I think it's almost trending right now. When I'm on Instagram, I see a lot of young people writing short poems, even photographing them out of their journals and posting them. And people tweet out short poems — that's a form.

I think that it's fascinating to use new forms of social media as frameworks for poetry. There seems to be a new energy with younger people around poetry.

Q: You teach a poetry writing class that fulfills a liberal arts requirement for students in various majors. What do all those different mindsets bring to the mix?

A: They really feed off of each other, because they come with such different skills. I have science students who are very careful observers of the natural world. They see imagery in a lot of detail. Watching the students is very interesting because they all have very different styles, even the English majors, who are mostly fiction writers, so poetry can be new for them as well.

Some of my students are interested in social issues, so they're writing about that. There's no topic that they have to write on, so you get a really diverse range of topics even when everyone's focusing on imagery or sound. They have a lot of untapped feelings and thoughts that can be channeled into poems.

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750, smcmarlin@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shirley_trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.