Blog Article Provided by Professor Laist’s ENG 300-10 Class
A warm October day set the stage at Goodwin College for a visit from esteemed authors Dick and Laurie Allen for a “Lunch and Learn” discussion, the highlight of a series of talks on “How to Get Published.” In a free-wheeling question-and-answer exchange, the Allens shared their thoughts on the art of writing and the challenges of publication.
Dick Allen is one of the founders of Expansive Poetry, a movement that started in the 1980s and includes New Formalism and New Narrative. His published books include This Shadow Place: Poems (2015), Present Vanishing: Poems (2008), and Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Selected (1997). Mr. Allen has also appeared in a number of publications including American Poetry Review. He has been awarded the Robert Frost Prize for Poetry and the Hart Crane Poetry Prize, and was appointed Connecticut’s Poet Laureate emeritus from 2010 to 2015. Mr. Allen was the Director of Creative Writing and the Charles A. Dana Endowed Chair Professor at the University of Bridgeport, retiring from that position in 2001.
Mr. Allen’s writing is very specific, with little use of abstract language. His poetry is simple, but in-depth. He is considered a Buddhist-oriented mystical poet, one of contemporary science, who specializes in narrative lyric. His recent poem “Zen Buddhist” received the Connecticut Book Award for poetry. Mr. Allen says that he may take up to 30 years to complete a poem, with as many as 60 rounds of revisions.
Success has not come without difficulty, however. A strong theme in his presentation at Goodwin was rejection. The Allens stressed that, in order to succeed in writing as a career, one must be able to accept criticism. Mr. Allen explained that he received more than 100 rejections before his first publication, 30 before his third, and 25 before his most recent.
Another topic discussed was the importance of writing about what you know. “If you know something really well, make a list and maybe an idea for a poem will come from that,” Mr. Allen said. One of the things that most stood out to the audience was that he knew at the age of 11 that his future was in writing. It is apparent that Mr. Allen is very committed to writing and encourages students to strive to improve their work — and never to give up.
Throughout the discussion, both poets inspired the audience with their knowledge and their intellect. Mr. Allen’s father told him to “try to be the world’s leading expert on something.” Students responded positively when Mr. Allen said, “You really have to believe in yourself, your writing, and your goods.” He emphasized the importance of being interested in reading different materials, explaining that “readers turn into writers.” The highlight of the event was the poet’s description of how to take rejection of your work and not give up on your writing. “Rejection hurts. You have to be able to bounce back. If you really want to be published, you’ve got to learn how to play the game.” Mr. Allen was open and honest about his views on writing: “I hate to write. I’d rather be engaged in some other leisure activity, but for me writing is a compulsion.”
The audience was impressed by Mr. Allen’s brilliance and wisdom. Goodwin student Patricia Castillo said, “I like how he was willing to open up to us. He was straightforward.” Student Paulina Anderson thought that, “It was quite interesting to see a husband and a wife with the same interests and writing skills.” Dominique Dorce, former Goodwin English student, was inspired to write poetry like Dick Allen. What he took from Mr. Allen is the message that “You can put a lot of effort into ten words.” Audience members were very attentive, asking many interesting questions. Everyone appreciated the couple’s ability to provide a glimpse into the pros and cons of the writing profession. Some students who had never met a professional writer before realized how poetry touches many people, and how it can be the most beautiful form of art.
Contributors: Paulina Anderson, Anjamma Areti, Lauren Attenello, Coree Campbell, Patricia Castillo, Michael Cudjoe, Allison Cunningham, Michael Fairclough, Chelsea Flores, Maria Gomez, Jahnell Howes, Tina Jones, Nancy Morgan, Chris Nelson, Shannia Pinnock, Lydia Reenstra, Steven Smith