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State of the Book Presenter: Gerry LaFemina

Editor’s Note: For the past two weeks we’ve been posting micro-portraits and/or interesting news about this year’s 2013 presenters at The State of the Book Literary Symposium, which will take place in Ann Arbor TODAY, September 28, in Rackham Auditorium. All events are free and open to the public. For a complete schedule or list of presenters, please check out the State of the Book Website. Thank you!

gerryLGGerry LaFemina is the author of eleven books of poems, prose poems, and fiction, including 2011’s Vanishing Horizon (poems) and this year’s Notes for the Novice Ventriloquist (prose poems). Clamor, a novel, is forthcoming. His book Graffiti Heart received the Anthony Piccione Prize in Poetry; The Parakeets of Brooklyn received the Bordighera Prize in Poetry and was translated into Italian.  A noted editor, teacher and literary arts advocate, he directs the Frostburg Center for Creative Writing at Frostburg State University where he’s an Associate Professor of English. For more on his work, please visit his website.

In an interview for Silenced Press , LaFemina is asked how he got into teaching. He replies:

Thomas Lux, one of my former teachers, once wrote that “no poem ever bought a cheeseburger/or not too many,” so I don’t know what sort of viable option I had to make a living. I could have done something else–no doubt–; I could have worked office jobs or used my skills working for a think tank. I was once asked to run for state office when I lived in Michigan…. But really, I love talking about poetry, and love getting people to think about literature differently.

It became apparent to me pretty early on that I should teach, so in my junior year at college I did some classroom work at the NY High School for the Humanities, and then when I was considering grad school I had to choose between teaching and writing or just writing (University of Montana had offered me the Hugo scholarship which was money just to write), but ultimately, I wanted to have a skill that would pay the bills–so getting the experience teaching at Western Michigan University seemed the smarter bet. As it turns out, I love teaching–the students give me such energy.

Hear more from LaFemina about his work and his process at The State of the Book, where he’ll be joining fellow authors Ariel Djanikian and Bill Harris on a panel entitled “The Haunted Past, the Strange Future,” moderated by Midwestern Gothic editor Robert James Russell.

Read the rest of the Silenced Press interview here.

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