Elena is the Interim Program Director for the Spring 2015 Semester.
As a teacher of poetry I am most interested in helping students to cultivate the individuality of their voice. Individuality, authenticity, and risk are the three qualities that interest me the most in the work of the writers I read and in the work of the students I advise. I begin each semester by asking students to think about the ways in which they might funnel their passions, obsessions, and what captivates them into their poems. I encourage students to mine the details of the worlds they inhabit and to use these details as one way to lead to the uniqueness of their work. Regarding the development of craft, I once heard an established writer with a long list of books to her name say: Writing is 80% revision. Since hearing this, it has been my #1 writing commandment. It is what I expect of myself and of the students I advise. Regarding reading, I encourage students to read widely and to annotate a significant number of international writers. I believe that reading a multiplicity of literary voices helps us to produce writing that is unpredictable, complex, and full.
I have published two poetry collections, Rhapsody of the Naked Immigrants (Harbor Mountain Press, 2009) and mercy mercy me (University of Wisconsin Press. 2003). I also coedited (with Michael Lassell) the poetry anthology, The World In Us (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). I have won a Lambda award for poetry, an Astraea Emerging Writers Award, and I have also received two poetry fellowships: one from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the other from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. In addition to my publications, I have worked as a poetry editor for two journals - Bloom and Tarpaulin Sky; the latter of which I still serve in an advisory capacity.