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I see teaching as a foundational component to my life as a writer. My students, most of whom are writing seriously for the first time in their lives, remind me of what writing requires of us: consistency, patience, humility, intention, surprise. Often their sense of discovery brings me to my own. 

 

I am opposed to conventional workshop structures in which students provide roundtable critiques and praise. As a student and a teacher, I’ve seen this model cultivate a type of classroom hazing culture that confuses and degrades emerging writers. Instead, my workshops focus on collaboration (rescuing poetry from the page by incorporating other mediums and digital media), discovery, and play. 

 

More tangibly, I teach students techniques to pay attention as a means to write: the first unit of every workshop I teach is simply titled “Attention.” Students are invited to describe what they see in their daily lives, free of metaphor (the coffee stain in the top left corner of my ruled notebook rather than the coffee stain was an earth held up by blue strings). When one learns to be observant and perceptive, only then can the artist step into work and look around. Too often we encourage young artists to insert themselves into the works of others – an emphasis on ego and the poetic “I” – which purports domineering and capitalist structures within education and literature. The alternative sets the stage for possibility: honest, open, courageous works of art.

Teaching Statement & Philosophy

Jack has taught poetry & prose at both the Gilliam Writers Group and New York University.

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