San Francisco, CA
Place of Birth
Bethesda Chevy Chase High School (1985)
Amherst College (1989)
University of California at Berkeley (M.A. Slavic Languages and Literatures, 1994)
University of Massachusetts at Amherst (MFA Poetry, 1998)
Why I chose to come to Amherst
I was all set to apply early decision to a different school, when I came to Amherst to visit a friend who was a current student. I immediately liked the size and feel of Amherst, and was really impressed with the ease and intelligence of the students I met, so decided to have an interview, even though I didn't think I was going to apply. Early the next morning I was walking down from the main quad to the Admissions office, and as I walked onto the War Memorial and looked down Memorial Hill I saw the mist and fields and the Holyoke Range and suddenly and quite definitely felt I had never seen anything as beautiful, and that I belonged in this place. It turns out that Amherst and western Massachusetts have been a kind of home to me every since, for which I am grateful beyond measure.
Russian Literature with Stanley Rabinowitz, Buddhist Scriptures with Janet Gyatso.
My professors in the Russian Department: Bill and Jane Taubman, Dale Peterson, Stanley Rabinowitz, Stephanie Sandler, Vkia Schweitzer.
Poetry, poetry in translation, Slavic languages and literatures, baseball.
Awards and Prizes
William Carlos Williams Award (Poetry Society of America)
Lannan Literary Fellowship
May Sarton Prize (Academy of American Arts and Sciences)
2010 Holloway Fellowship (University of California at Berkeley)
2011 Guggenheim Fellowship
I have just finished reading the massive and brilliant trilogy "Your Face Tomorrow," by the Spanish author Javier Marias, and it is my current favorite book. My all-time favorite is Le Grand Meaulnes, (The Lost Domain), by Alain-Fournier.
Frank O'Hara, John Keats, Robert Desnos, Emily Dickinson.
Tips for aspiring writers
Sit down and work regularly, with as light a heart as possible and a willingness to cheerfully fail.
I got started writing relatively late, in my 20's. I was in a PhD program, and starting to realize that what I wanted to do was to make literature more than study it (though I already knew then that the two activities are very closely related, and that all serious and dedicated writers and also serious and dedicated readers). So I began sitting down every day to try to write something, and what I ended up writing were not stories or essays or parts of a novel but poems. This was a great and pleasurable surprise. I started to read contemporary poetry, to go to readings in Berkeley, and to try to figure out how to write a poem, by trying different styles, including formal poetry as well as free verse. It would be many years before I wrote a poem that was really any good, but I was having a lot of fun along the way, and I eventually decided to go to graduate school in creative writing, in order to surround myself with fellow writers from whom I could learn. I ended up luckily at UMass Amherst, and was very glad by the way to return to western Massachusetts which I had loved so much as an undergraduate. It took me many more years of experiments, struggles, and learning before I wrote my first book, which was published in 2002, when I was 34 years old. In many ways, and each time when I sit down to write a new poem, it feels to me as if I am a beginner again.