Richard Tillinghast has published twelve books of poetry and five of creative nonfiction. His most recent publication is Journeys into the Mind of the World: A Book of Places, 2017. He studied with Robert Lowell at Harvard and later wrote a critical memoir, Robert Lowell’s Life and Work: Damaged Grandeur. His Selected Poems came out in 2010, and in 2010 he was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in poetry in addition to a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in translation for Dirty August, his versions of poems by the Turkish poet, Edip Cansever, written in collaboration with his daughter, the poet Julia Clare Tillinghast. His 2012 travel book, An Armchair Traveller’s History of Istanbul, published in London, was nominated for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize. He has been a faculty member at Harvard, Berkeley, Sewanee, and the University of Michigan, and is one of the founders of Bear River. Richard retired from the UM in 2005 and lived in Ireland for six years, moving back to this country in 2011. He now lives most of the year in Hawaii and spends his summers in Tennessee.
Poetry as a Form of Fiction
We usually think of two forms of creative writing: poetry and fiction. If fiction writers engage in a fictive activity, “making things up,” as it were, poets are assumed to be telling the truth. If in a poem they say something happened, then we can safely assume that, yes, it happened. But a look behind the scenes suggests that poems can be just as fictive as short stories and novels. The idea behind this workshop is: Let’s not only accept, let’s embrace poetry as fiction and give ourselves permission to assume a fictive identity, even to lie! If it serves the purposes of the poem to be absolutely faithful to what happened, fine. If it serves the purposes of the poem to make things up, then make things up. It’s liberating.