Richard Tillinghast, Poetry

Richard Tillinghast is the author of twelve books of poetry and four of creative nonfiction. He studied with Robert Lowell at Harvard and later wrote a critical memoir, Robert Lowell’s Life and Work: Damaged Grandeur. He traveled in Europe with a Sinclair-Kennedy travel grant from Harvard in 1966-67, and again in 1990-91 with an Amy Lowell travel grant, also from Harvard. His Selected Poems came out in 2010, and in 2010 he was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in poetry as well as a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in translation for Dirty August, his versions of poems by the Turkish poet, Edip Cansever, written in collaboration with his daughter, Julia Clare Tillinghast. He has been a faculty member at Harvard, Berkeley, and Sewanee. In the early 1980s Tillinghast began teaching in the University of Michigan’s MFA program in its first years, along with the fiction writer George Garrett. In  2001 he and James McCullough founded Bear River. Richard retired in 2005 and lived in Ireland for six years, moving back to this country in 2011. He currently teaches part-time in Converse College’s low-residency MFA program and divides his time between Sewanee, Tennessee, and the Big Island of Hawaii.

Workshop: Getting People, Places, and Background into Poems

People are who they are to some degree because of where they are—where they come from, where they choose to be, what the social and historical background of their lives is. In this workshop we will explore the relationship between personality and place. We will work on evoking a sense of place through the use of vivid language, and then explore how women and men both inhabit a place and embody it. The workshop welcomes both experienced and published poets, as well as those who may be new to the art.
We will warm up and stretch our poetry muscles with some enjoyable writing prompts to develop our flexibility and our ability to think in terms of images, to make a poem do in a few lines what a play or movie does, to suggest social and historical background, to get our distinctive voice and personality into our poems. A few examples: a poem based on an object; a poem that dramatizes a person and a culture characterized all in one; the use of an animal or an object—a car, boat, you name it—as an image for the self.

Richard Tillinghast on the Web