Thursday, November 19, 2015

AuTHor Thursday: Meet Cindy Nichols

Welcome to AuThor Thursday.

Meet Cindy Nichols, a local author who also teaches in the NDSU English Department.

Cindy graciously gave us some insight into her writing world. 

I hail from Southern California originally, received my MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, then headed north and have lived in Fargo for more years than I care to mention! My poems have appeared in a variety of national journals, including The Kenyon Review, Mid-American Review, Cimarron Review, and Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics.  I like coffee. A lot.  Also Affenpinschers, the Tetons, and sport/show kites. I own a very weird number of kites.
Recent interests include affinities between the creative process—poetry in particular—and contemplative practices, new and ancient.  I recently spent a week at Brown University talking with people who are spearheading the use of these practices in education, and I also ran a residential two-day creative writing/meditation workshop with Humanities Council funding.


I write plenty of “normal” poems, but I also do a somewhat wacky range of stuff, including mixed-genre and mixed-media pieces: scholarly essays which include animation, poetry, and various interactive gizmos, for example; and scholarly essay/personal essay hybrids. I have a piece in Enculturation which experiments in this way, called “Responding in Kind: Down in the Body in the Undergraduate Poetry Course )Thoughts on Bakhtin, Hypertext, and Cheap Wigs(. Another is a letter-essay on the place of Creative Writing in English Studies which appeared in New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing  (it is actually a letter written to a class taught by Amy Taggart). And another is an anthologized piece which explores labor issues in English Studies: “Uppity Subalterns and Brazen Compositionists.”

I also have a piece in Dr. Verena Theile’s recent anthology, New Formalisms and Literary Theory, called  “Punk Bodies, Jorie Graham, and ‘The Draft Itself’: Notes Toward a Lyric Formalism.”

Why do I write?

This is antiquated process stuff, but, honestly, I write “to see where it will go.” I think my muse is a semi-crazy hippy piper whose sound makes me giddy and, well, stupid. He doesn’t know where he’s going either.

My interest in bending genres comes I think comes in part from what Wallace Stevens had in mind: “poetry is the mind in the act of finding itself.”  Hybrid and constantly varying forms are a “natural” consequence of trying to say something that won’t stay still—if nothing else, just how it feels, right down to our nerve endings, to be trapped in time and strange bodies.

I think I write too as a simple way to cope with lost car keys, marital arguments, the bumper-car ride of working in an English department, endlessly [expletive] icy sidewalks, and a prairie landscape so beautiful it makes me drool.


The stuff that most turns me on is experimental lyricism.  I love love lyrical poetry, and I also love weird and challenging poetry. My primary inspiration has to be Jorie Graham (the weird side) and James Galvin (the lyrical side). They were married and sort of my mom and dad in grad school.  And man, they fought a lot.

Graham is an insanely strong personality and she remains one of my favorite contemporary writers.  Galvin too. I also love Fanny Howe, Anne Carson, Tony Hoagland, Lisa Lewis, and, well, it goes on. I always go back to a lot of dead white guys: Shakespeare, Donne, Herbert, Hopkins, Keats, Yeats, Blake, Wordsworth, WHITMAN, and pretty much all of the modernists. And Dickinson. Lately reading Mary Oliver and a variety of poets whose work is “contemplative” but not explicitly Buddhist. And I really love Neruda.  And Dean Young, a semi-young writer who is sublimely nuts.

Rodney Jones’ thick, intense, Southern, hyper-detailed and hyper-jaded poems. Are wonderful.
What advice do you have for writing teachers?

1.  Always be actively writing yourself.

2.     Always be actively writing yourself.