SWA Presenter Spotlight: Susan Meyers

As I announced in December, I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing* at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in June 2010.

To gear up for that, I am featuring interviews and spotlights with this year’s presenters.**

Next up is poet Susan Meyers.


Past president of both the North Carolina Poetry Society and The Poetry Society of South Carolina, Meyers mentors creative writing students at the Charleston County School of the Arts.  Her poetry book, Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina Press) has earned the SC Poetry Book Prize, the Brockman-Campbell Book Award and the SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) Book Award for Poetry.

In addition to being a writing instructor, the award-winning poet also received the South Carolina Academy of Authors’ Poetry Fellowship and served as the 2005 Poet-in-Residence at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston and for County School of the Arts.  She has been published in several literary journals such as The Southern Review, Crazyhorse and Tar River Poetry as well as the Web sites Verse Daily and Poetry Daily.

For more information about her work, please visit her blog.



RS:  How did you get into writing?

SM: I’ve always written, but I began to write poetry seriously about 22 years ago, when I took my first poetry workshop with Paul Rice at Coastal Carolina University. I was hooked.

RS:  What keeps you writing?

SM: At first, it was the pleasure of it—the fascination of creating something. Before long, though, it became a part of my life, and now I feel the genuine need to write.

A number of my favorite activities also egg me on: reading poems I fall in love with, going to poetry readings, observing nature and the world around me.

RS:  What do you do when you’re not writing?

SM: Birding, biking (as well as spin classes at the Y), reading, teaching, going to poetry events and daydreaming—I’ve always been a big daydreamer.

RS:  What draws you to poetry?

SM: Poetry helps me to make meaning of life. I’m drawn to its compression—the engagement with language, rhythm and sound.

RS:  What are you currently working on?

SM: I just finished a brief set of poems based on lines from Sappho. So now I’m back to writing poem by poem; plus, I’m in the process of circulating a new book manuscript.

RS:  What’s one genre or type of writing in which you’d like to dabble but haven’t yet—and why?

SM: I’m not much of a dabbler—I tend to leap into something with both feet—so I’m pretty immersed in poetry writing. I also do book reviews and enjoy that when I have time. I love to read creative nonfiction, so that would probably be the next genre if I were to tackle another.

RS:  What book(s) currently adorn your nightstand?

SM: Poetry by Li-Young Lee, T.S. Eliot,  Joshua Poteat, Atsuro Riley, Malena Morling, Lucille Clifton. Poet’s Work, Poet’s Play: Essays on the Practice and the Art (edited by Daniel Tobin and Pimone Triplett). Indiana Review, Poetry, Cave Wall and other literary journals.

RS:  Name an author that helped shape who you are as a writer and how he or she had that effect on you.

SM: When I first started taking poetry seriously, I’d go to the library and check out a set of six audio tapes of James Dickey reading his poems, and I’d play them over and over.  This was back when you could see who had checked out library materials before you.

Week after week, my name was the only one on the library card. The strong rhythms and intensity of Dickey’s early work made a huge impression on me.

Years before I had studied—and greatly admired—the work of the Romantic poets Byron, Shelley and Keats; and Dickey’s work had a similar effect on me. I wanted to write with that same passion.

Do YOU remember the library card catalog?

RS:  Can you give us a quick teaser about the course you’ll be teaching at Southeastern Writers Association?

SM: I’ll be teaching four sessions of a poetry workshop on craft. I’m calling it “Which Words, What Order?” The classes will basically turn to diction and syntax as two means of surprise.

My goal is for those of us in the workshop to stretch ourselves by moving beyond the expected, by surprising ourselves—and our readers—with what we say and how we say it.

We’ll work some with tag clouds, and we’ll look at the variety that poets/writers can gain by paying closer attention to syntax.

Those are just two of the activities planned. I’m planning it so that it should be helpful to poets and prose writers alike, and I’ll be sure to include handouts.


For more information about the Southeastern Writers Association conference in June, please see their registration page as well as my recent post.

*To learn more about the workshop I’m teaching, click here.

**For more SWA Presenter Spotlights, click the appropriately-named category in the right-hand sidebar.

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