Program Director Annie Finch is the author of four books of poetry: Calendars (Tupelo, 2003), shortlisted for the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year award; Eve (Story Line, 1997); the innovative performance poem The Encyclopedia of Scotland (Salt, 2004); and a translation of the complete poems of Renaissance poet Louise Labé (Chicago, 2006). Her music, art, and theater collaborations include the opera "Marina," based on the life of poet Marina Tsvetaeva, which premiered in May 2003 from American Opera Projects in New York with music by composer Deborah Drattell, directed by Anne Bogart. Her books on poetics include The Ghost of Meter and a collaboration of essays, The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form, and the Poetic Self (Poets on Poetry Series, University of Michigan Press, 2005). Annie has also edited several anthologies including A Formal Feeling Comes: Poems in Form by Contemporary Women (Story Line, 1994) and, with Kathrine Varnes, An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art (Michigan, 2002). She earned a BA from Yale, MA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston, and PhD in English from Stanford, and is a Professor of English at the University of Southern Maine.
Calendars (Tupelo Press, Manchester, VT, 2003)
The Encyclopedia of Scotland (Cambridge, UK/Applecross, Australia, Salt Publishing, 2004)
Eve (Story Line Press, 1997)
Complete Poetry of Louise Labé (translation) (University of Chicago Press, 2006)
An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art (with Katherine Varnes) (University of Michigan Press, 2002)
The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form and the Poetic Self (University of Michigan Press, 2005)
Lofty Dogmas: Poets on Poetics (Coeditor with Maxine Kumin and Deborah Brown) (University of Arkansas Press, 2005)
Marina (American Opera Projects, DR2 Theater, New York, May, 2003)
Season Poems (Calliope Press, San Francisco, 2002)
Home-Birth (Dos Madres Press, Cincinnati, 2004)
How I Teach:
I am a bridge-builder by nature, and one of my strengths as a teacher is that I am genuinely interested in a wide variety of aesthetics and styles. No matter what the teaching situation, my aim is to have the patience to figure out wherever a student may be coming from, and the flexibility to meet them there. I am not an autocratic teacher; I tend to listen closely to my students and am ready to admit when I have been wrong. But I have high standards and a strong sense of what works in poetry and what doesn't.
I also have a rather unusual area of knowledge for a contemporary poet—a deep and passionate familiarity with poetic form. Though I do enjoy teaching poetry of all kinds, at this point in my teaching career, I feel I can make the best use of my teaching time by focusing largely on that area of poetics. Of course, not all poems want to be or should be "formal” in the traditional sense—free verse is a form too. But contemporary poetry tends to use free verse as a kind of "default” mode even if it isn't really in the best interest of the poem, and I enjoy opening students' eyes to other possibilities of structure and music hidden in their poems.
I believe that poetry involves skill as well as inspiration, and I enjoy helping my students develop that skill. For me the repetitions and interweavings of poetic form hold a spiritual and sensual power. I see form not as an ideal or a constraint, but rather a liberation into the poem's physical being, an invitation to dance and sing meters aloud, to reconnect with the chanting of the creative preliterate child and the trance state induced by the shaman's drum. To communicate this sense of form with my students who have not worked with form before, I have been known to use memorization, dancing, chanting, and drumming.
I love a great variety of poems from different cultures, and my definition of form is markedly more eclectic than that of most poets who teach form. I am committed to "metrical diversity” and do not privilege iambic pentameter over any other rhythm. Even students with a strong background in form tend to be familiar only with iambic meter, so I make a point of introducing exercises in other meters for students who are interested in expanding their rhythmic repertoire. I am intrigued by the implications of forms from all cultures and have edited several books that emphasize multicultural forms; the intersections between traditional and postmodern ideas of form; and the intersections between form, gender, and cultural background.
I have a background in theater and music collaboration and for third-semester enhancement projects, I am especially interested in working with students involved in creative collaboration. I am also intrigued by projects involving narrative or epic poetry. When working long-distance, I tend to be quick in my responses and easily accessible by email, except during the month of August when I am a Luddite and retreat to the woods. I make extensive line edits and am open to supplementing my written critiques with phone conversations where we can read the poetry aloud and listen to how it sounds.