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
The personal essay is a literary form which puts the writer in touch with his reader in a very intimate, sometimes casual way. As Walt Whitman wrote, “I loaf and invite my soul.” We describe this form as creative nonfiction because though based on actual events, essayists include in their arsenals many of the techniques of both poetry and fiction. In the personal essay create images and use the five senses to bring the reader as close as possible to what we ourselves experience. We try to stay aware of the rhythm of our phrases and sentences. As in fiction we create characters and tell stories. As for style, readers of well-written essays experience what Elizabeth Hardwick called “the soloist’s personal signature flowing through the text.” The essayist is like a jazz musician standing up to tell his story through his horn—or in our case, through his or her fountain pen or laptop.
Richard Tillinghast on the Web