Writers Project

The Writers Project continues its series for the 2019 spring semester with an appearance by “Squeezed” author Alyssa Quart at 12:30 p.m. April 3 in the Visual Arts Gallery in Dearlove Hall on the Queensbury campus.

Writer Amy King will  be part of the Writers Project.

Poet Amy King spoke March 6 on the Queensbury campus.

5 questions with Amy King

1. When did you first fall in love with poetry?

I fell in love with language as a kid, staying up late reading books into the wee hours. Poetry hit me via Lucille Clifton in high school and Gertrude Stein in undergrad. I kept reading her portraits aloud to friends on the phone until I realized I was actually using the desire to annoy them as an excuse to say the words myself.

2. Why does poetry have a stigma with many Americans?

No one approach has been mastered. You can go the linguist's route and discuss the metaphorical nature of language itself or you can attempt the theoretical aspect of how poetry can critique, dissect, reveal, but all too often, high school curriculum focuses on technicalities like defining basic figurative language and locating the stress in a foot, etc. The latter approach beats the joy out of word play and possibility. It's like saying, "let's look at how music has beats and meters," instead of the joyous plunge of exploring genres, variety and all that music enables, including dance, political inspiration, communal bonding, etc.  

3. The Feminist Press named you as one of its “40 Under 40: The Future of Feminism” awardees. Is the current political climate shaping your work as a writer

I don't think I'm often referred to as a "political poet" with a capital "p," but my work often touches on lowercase politics as sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. All affect my critical outlook, which in turn impacts what I write.  

4. What poets inspire you?

This is difficult because that's like asking what musicians make you move. It depends on context, need and the moment  I return to so many poets, but many contemporary and young poets capture my heart and lift me too at any given time. I suppose a brief list would be John Ashbery, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde, Alice Notley, Tomaz Salamun, Cesar Vajello, and so many more. Such lists are so limiting and really don't speak to occasion or need or desire. It''d be kind of like which music is best to you when you'd need to ask, "For what? To make me dance or to mourn a friend? To motivate me to act or to ease my anxiety?  To teach me about Zydeco culture or to be most conducive to ballroom dancing?" Poets and poetry are as varied as musicians and music -- and so many inspire in countless ways.

5. What is your best advice for students who want to write poetry?

Read, read, read. Find a few poets you fall in love with and be voracious with their work. Consume their every word. It can be three poets or six. It doesn't matter as long as you are compelled to know everything you can by them.

Carry notebooks that you love in just the right size with just the right paper. Get a favorite pen and buy 10 of them. Pull out that notebook with that gorgeously flowing gel pen and write lines and phrases as they strike every other hour as each day goes along are the building blocks of writing.  

Read beyond poetry, too. I read theory well beyond my ability to understand. The concepts challenge my brain and make me think in new ways. Poets are innovators. If you're just trying to write pretty epiphanies, you can but that's this side of ease. Push your way into worlds you don't quite grasp. Make the brain do acrobats it can't master in a minute. That's the way you and your poetry grow.


Illustrator Doug Salati will appear at SUNY Adirondack on Feb. 13.

Illustrator Doug Salati spoke on Feb. 13 as part of the SUNY Adirondack Writers Project.

Six questions with Doug Salati

1. What are your favorite mediums for illustration? What role does digital technology play in your work?

To start a multi-image book project, I make loose pencil sketches that get scanned and placed into a digital mock up of the book. This helps work out the imagery's flow and pacing with respect to the author's story. My process lately has been to draw the final art with graphite on paper, which is scanned and then colored digitally in Photoshop. 

2. As an illustrator, at one point in a book project do you get involved?

In many cases an editor will use his or her experience to pair an illustrator with an author's manuscript. I would then begin the task of trying out my initial interpretations of the text in a book dummy. 

3. Has working as a visual storyteller for books affected your overall illustration style?

I think part of the fun of being an illustrator is that I get to shift and adapt certain qualities of my drawing to support the tone or mood of the text I am working with. 

4. What are your favorite books? Do your own reading habits influence the way you approach your work?

As a kid, I loved the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, anything by EB White and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. I've enjoyed many of John Irving's novels and short stories by Alice Munro. I appreciate the humor and truth in Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies. I am currently reading The Overstory by Richard Powers.

Reading for enjoyment is important for an illustrator as it allows you to experience how other people construct vivid ideas and narratives. 

5. You grew up in central New York and studied art and illustration at Skidmore College. How has upstate New York shaped you as an artist?

Upstate New York has provided a backdrop for many of my illustrations. I think being outside allows you the space and the peace of mind to reset and replenish and get on with solving the next puzzle ahead, creative or otherwise.

6. What advice would you give a young person about pursuing a career as an illustrator?

Read as much as you can. Draw and write as much as you can. Get yourself to keep making new work, whether or not you think it's any good. Try not to judge what you make too harshly. If you can, find a community to share it with for feedback and support.

For more information on Doug Salati, go to www.dougsalati.com.

Additional Writers Project programs include “Squeezed” author Alyssa Quart on April 3 and celebrated poet David Baker on April 24.

All Writers Project events, which are held at 12:30 p.m. in the Visual Arts Gallery, are free and open to the public.