Award-winning poet to speak at USM
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 23:02
The University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers will be hosting poet Don Bogen Friday, where he will do readings of his own work. Bogen is author of four poetry collections. He most recently wrote “An Algebra,” and “A Necessary Order: Theodore Roethke and the Writing Process.”
Bogen said he has been interested in poetry since his childhood.
“I loved the Dr. Seuss books and still keep a picture of him on my bulletin board,” Bogen said. “But I didn’t really write poems until high school.”
Bogen says that he didn’t write anything worthwhile until he was in his mid-20s.
“I actually started writing regularly in junior high, but it wasn’t poetry,” Bogen said. “I produced a number of perfectly terrible science fiction stories after hearing a talk by Ray Bradbury.”
The recipient of several prestigious awards such as the AWP Anniversary Awards Grand Prize, a Poetry Society of America Emily Dickinson Award and grants from the Ingram Merrill Foundation and the NEA, Bogen is humble about his work.
“Recognition is a pleasure for anyone, of course, especially because writing is such a solitary activity,” Bogen said.
Bogen enjoys giving readings and meeting students and fellow poets.
“There’s also a pleasure in the act of writing itself- the sense of discovery and of adding something, however small, to the world of poetry,” Bogen said. “You never know who might read your work, but I like thinking that someone I don’t know at all in some place I’ve never been may get something from a poem I wrote, just as I’ve deeply enjoyed reading the work of others.”
Bogen also gave some advice for aspiring writers or poets.
“Read, of course, both systematically in courses, including old work and new and on your own, finding favorite writers and exploring new directions.”
Bogen said that taking classes focused on writing will help as well attending as many readings and events as possible.
“Subscribe to a literary magazine like ‘The Cincinnati Review,’” Bogen said.
In fact, Bogen is the poetry editor of “The Cincinnati Review.”
“Check out online journals like ‘Memorious’, which is now edited here at USM,” Bogen said.
The most important thing Bogen stressed is to keep writing.
“Ray Bradbury recommended a thousand words a day for fiction, not poetry, and share what you write with others,” Bogen said. “A community can make a real difference.”
Because writing processes vary among individuals, Bogen believes that an individual has to explore himself in order to find the right process.
“I’ve actually written a book about the poet Theodore Roethke’s writing processes and studied other poets’ ways of working, so the topic interests me,” Bogen said. “My own process can vary a bit depending on the poem, but I suppose the key point is that I start, like many poets, with some small bit of language, an image, or a pattern of sound rather than a large overall topic. Then there is a process of exploration and discovery until I begin to see some of the shape and focus of what’s developing.”
Bogen tends to speak the lines of his work aloud over and over as he writes “to get a feel for their music.”
Revision is a necessary part of writing, which Bogen enjoys “when I’m not tearing my hair out.
“Because of this, it takes me a good while, years in some cases, to finish any given poem, and many things never get finished or even close.”
This is balanced by the fact that Bogen is always working on several poems at various stages of completion.
“I keep notes and drafts in folders, so when I sit down to write I can plunge into work on older things or see what I can generate from the blank page.”
Assistant professor in the Department of English Rebecca Morgan Frank said her favorite works from Bogen include his most recent work “An Algebra” and “Luster.”
“Don Bogen has contributed to poetry with his original works of poetry and his translations, as you can see by the numerous awards he has won,” Frank said. “He also has done important work in the field as the poetry editor of the literary magazine ‘The Cincinnati Review.’”