Each month, the Communications Team reaches out to members of the Department of English faculty and asks them to elaborate on a current research or creative project they are working on or have recently completed. For this month, we asked Professor Stuart Lishan about his book, Miss Emily’s Book of Spells (by Hechizar Spelwomnn).
How would you explain your work to a colleague?
As a creative writer – of poems; of novels; and of short stories, both of the fictional and nonfictional variety – I try to maintain the habits and rituals that arise out of a deep and abiding engagement with language. Such an engagement, I’ve found, leads to a process knowing. Poets put words into unexpected combinations, which leads to different meaning and sense combinations, for example. Novelists plow deeply into the lives of their characters and come to know experience and the self more richly out of such empathetic engagement. These are ways, in other words, of expanding our sensibilities, our way of knowing. It may be a romantic belief, but one that I have found to be true for me.
My recently completed novel (my third), entitled Miss Emily’s Book of Spells (by Hechizar Spelwomnn) is a magical real, historical-based dream memory of our country as it was that touches upon the life of our country’s greatest and most enigmatic poet, Emily Dickinson. I am also a widely published poet. My book of poems, Body Tapestries (Dream Horse Press) was a winner of the Orphic Prize for poetry. Another poetry manuscript, An Archaeology of Light, has been a finalist or semi-finalist for seventeen major book competitions in the past five years, and my just completed poetry manuscript, An Orrery of Hue and Cry, is currently out for submission. I also write short fiction and memoir, which has been published in numerous literary journals such as Creative Nonfiction, Arts & Letters, and The Literati Quarterly. In addition, I write reviews of poetry (most recently published in Tupelo Quarterly) and articles that deal with the pedagogy of creative writing (most recently published in the book, CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing).
Now, could you shorten this description?
In short, I am a lyrically-soaring, wind-hovering, shape-shifting, multi-genre, truth-telling, trend-ignoring, fad-averse, fang-sharpened poet, novelist and all around freaking star voyager of the sweet words.
In what ways is your project significant?
As a creative writer, my work is significant in the ways that all good poems, novels and short stories are significant: Through the “lies” we tell, we present an unvarnished mirror of the truth; we bring our attentiveness to the forgotten and overlooked in our lives and experiences; and, through the cadences of language that we unleash into our lines and sentences, we shake our dear readers and listeners out of their socks and down to their very cores.
Are you working with any colleagues or collaborators?
Emily Dickinson might answer, “Hills – Sir – and the Sundown,” as she does in an 1862 letter to T.W. Higginson, but I will answer simply “No.” Although in the past I’ve collaborated on writing poems with an ex-student, and with a colleague at Otterbein University on some articles centered upon the teaching of creative writing, mostly I write and do research on my own.
Is the project being funded by any individuals or organizations that you would like to acknowledge?
Although in the past I’ve received Individual Artist Fellowships from the Ohio and California Arts Councils, I am most grateful from the more recent support that I have received from The Ohio State University at Marion in the form of various small grants and course releases.
Where do you see this project going in the future?
Of course, as in the case with most writers, I look forward to the publication of my various book projects, both in electronic and traditional formats. As a writer I am always eager to engage my work with a wider audience.
What is next for you?
I am currently at work on a novel entitled Miss Emily’s Book of Abiding Romances. A sequel to Miss Emily’s Book of Spells (by Hechizar Spelwomnn), this novel touches more directly upon the life of Emily Dickinson, especially during the years of the Civil War when she was composing much of her most compelling work. In addition, I continue to strive to be attentive and open to writing poems, and the occasional work of short fiction and memoir.