MFA in Creative Writing, University of Virginia
Molly Bendall (poetry) is the author of four collections of poetry, After Estrangement (Peregrine Smith, 1992), Dark Summer (Miami University Press, 1999), Ariadne’s Island (Miami University Press, 2001), and Under the Quick (Parlor Press, 2009). Her poems, reviews, and translations of the French surrealist poet Joyce Mansour have appeared in Paris Review, Poetry, Field, American Poetry Review, Denver Quarterly, New American Writing, Volt, and many other journals. She has received the Eunice Tietjens Prize from Poetry magazine and the Lynda Hull Poetry Award from DenverQuarterly and two Pushcart Prizes. Her poems have also appeared in anthologies: American Hybrid: The Norton Anthology of the New Poem, American Poetry: The Next Generation, The New American Poets, and The Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative Poetry, 2007. She has also co-authored with Gail Wronsky two collections of “cowgirl” poetry and the new collection Bling & Fringe. She currently teaches at the University of Southern California.
Teaching Statement, Molly Bendall
What do we talk about when we talk about poems? I think we first have to come to a poem with an open mind whether we’re in a workshop, reading a poem from a collection,
reading a peer’s poem, or reading our own. We can first ask what sort of world is
this poem positing, what kind of experience is it re-enacting? Then how does it render
that world? We can break elements down to the word choice, the voice and tone,
the images, its rhythms, the structure and movement, the line, the form. And there is always more. We can attempt to talk about its mystery, its silences, its unknowability. I think it’s always worth probing and making an attempt to talk about all of these issues.
As a mentor I encourage students to read broadly. I will suggest collections of
poems and poets who seem akin to their work, but I’ll also urge students to read
outside of their sensibilities and to make new discoveries. I think its very important
for poets to have a sense of the whole landscape of contemporary poetry, its styles,
trends, and approaches. And also, it’s important to read poets from the past. I usually assign about 3 books each month and about 3 essays or an essay collection by poets or critics. This essay reading is vital in order to see and understand how one articulates his/her thoughts and responses to poems and to develop a critical vocabulary. I like
thorough and thoughtful annotations to these books and essays.
I like to receive about 4-6 poems each month. Some of these can be revisions.
I encourage students to push themselves, take risks, venture into many territories,
and even misbehave. I will often ask for more–explore more, probe more into
the poem’s world. I hope students will be open to new ways of approaching their
work. I think it’s sometimes important to “re-envision” a poem, which may mean
changing its form, changing its speaker, altering its tone, modifying its diction, or
many other elements. These are suggestions in order to see what other possibilities
or “lives” there might be for a poem. Occasionally I will ask for a particular type of poem or give a guideline for the poem to follow. I believe that with constraints we often find exciting and new possibilities. And, lastly, always listen to a poem. Read poems (your own and others) out loud. Tune in to their verbal music.
Under the Quick