program director, M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts
M.A., The Johns Hopkins University
B.A., Ohio University
I don't remember a time when I didn't love poetry and the very sounds of words. But it wasn't until I was in a college poetry workshop that I realized it was an art form that I could actually pursue. I fell in love with poetry in that workshop, with the poem on the page, the beautiful way poems looked on the page with the white space around them, the way each word made a physical impression. I loved reading the work of my classmates, talking and thinking about each and every line. I loved listening to great poets like W.S. Merwin, Louise Gluck, John Logan and Robert Bly present their works at readings. I loved the places that poems took me, the experiences I had when reading. I loved the particular solitude that was required when I sat down to write. I did not determine to "be a poet," consciously; I just never wanted to do anything else.
Teaching gives me the opportunity to introduce others to this intimate and challenging occupation. Students come to poetry with a fair amount of reticence and sometimes even resistance, and I try to help them learn ways to read poetry that can stimulate their imagination. And since poetry is one of the most human of the arts, in which one makes direct contact with personal experience, the classroom can become a very special, and sometimes sacred, place.
I am a poet, and I am also an editor and publisher. Over the past 22 years, I have edited Passager , a national literary journal I co-founded, which features older writers and honors their creativity. The idea for Passager emerged while I was teaching a writing class at the Waxter Center for Senior Citizens in downtown Baltimore. I had never been in a room full of 70-, 80- and 90-year-olds, and the passion was exhilarating. It changed my life.
In 2005, Passager Books was established. Our first book, A Cartography of Peace by then-86-year-old poet Jean Connor, opened up the author's life to all kinds of adventures: giving readings and interviews and, recently, working with composers who have set her poems to music.
I am deeply interested in exploring the book as an object of art and discovering new ways to integrate text and image and to create objects (books) that are conceptually imaginative, experimental and original.
I teach courses in creative writing, literature and publishing. I am convinced there is no school quite like UB (and before I came here, I had taught at several others in Maryland). The diversity of students creates life and surprise in the classroom, and each student's life experiences provide so many riches to draw from when developing poems, short stories and essays. UB students are giving, inspiring and appreciative of their education; nothing is taken for granted. And in general, they seem to have so much energy and spirit—going to school and working full time, raising children. They are focused, organized, talented and very, very caring. I feel compelled to give them as much as I can in the short time we are together.
Works by Kendra Kopelke:
as editor of Passager Books: