Midwest Writers Workshop will host its annual poetry reading in celebration of National Poetry Month on April 11 at 7:30 at Vera Mae’s Bistro in downtown Muncie. We are featuring National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize in Poetry finalist Adrian Matejka. Ball State University poets Katy Didden and Robert Young will also read from their collection of work.
Today we feature Robert Young.
Robert Young was born in Fort Wayne, IN. In 2015, he was the Lead Poetry editor of The Broken Plate, Ball State’s undergraduate-run literary magazine. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Noble/Gas Qtrly, Midwestern Gothic, and The Evansville Review. Currently, he is pursuing an MA in creative writing at Ball State University. He is currently working on a chapbook of lyric and prose poetry.”
You served as editor on The Broken Plate, Ball State’s undergraduate-run literary magazine. How did that experience influence you own writing? Did you become more critical of your work? Learn to ask yourself different questions? Find different approaches and avenues of inquiry?
The Broken Plate was an amazing opportunity! I think every aspiring writer should work on a lit mag, because what working at The Broken Plate did for me was train my editorial eye; I learned how to distinguish between what makes a “good” poem and what makes an “okay” poem. Reading submissions for a lit mag means you sift through hundreds, thousands of poems even, and most of them won’t end up being published. Consequently, I was able to identify tropes and moves that others did in their poetry that felt played out, and then work to make my own poetry better. Thinking critically about other people’s work helped me think critically about my own work, and I think that it helped me make my work be more uniquely mine. Stand out more.
You are from Ft. Wayne and now Muncie. The Broken Plate receives submissions from across the U.S. and from some foreign countries as well. That must have broadened your view a little wider.
That helped, yeah, but I think that my outlook on life has broadened a whole lot in the last year or two for a variety of reasons. I’ve started traveling more, I’ve met new people from different places, and of course I read a lot. Indiana will always be an important part of me and my identity, but I’m at a point in my life where I finally feel free and ready to move beyond it, and that’s an exciting prospect.
What poets do you read? Your favorites? Most influential and/or challenging?
Hmm, right now I’m reading some books by poets that Katy [Didden] loaned to me, Cole Swenson and Jennifer Atkinson. I’ve been reading a lot of prose poetry lately since my Master’s creative project contains quite a few prose poems. It’s been sort of my obsession right now. I got a stack of Charles Simic books from the library. I’m also going through Rose Metal Press’s Field Guide to Prose Poetry.
(Rose Metal Press is an independent, not-for-profit publisher of hybrid genres specializing in the publication of short short, flash, and micro-fiction; prose poetry; novels-in-verse or book-length linked narrative poems; and other literary works that move beyond the traditional genres of poetry, fiction, and essay to find new forms of expression. Co-founder of Rose Metal Press Kathleen Rooney is a past faculty member and good friend of Midwest Writers Workshop.)
Last year we had David Shumate as our featured reader. David’s prose poems are some of the best poetry I’ve read, with his vivid language and with the way he engages the senses. His gentle spirit and big heart. What led you to start writing prose poems?
I started writing prose poems because it was a form I hadn’t done much work in and I wanted to try it out. The central idea for my creative project involved a lot of prose poetry, too. I’ve always been a poet primarily, but I also really love writing fiction, and so I’ve written a lot of flash fiction, and I think prose poetry is similar, but ultimately different. It’s hard to quantify, but I think it comes down to prose poems are more lyrical, flash is more plot-driven, but even those distinctions are tenuous at best. Writing in the boundary of genres is really my main writing interest.
What awaits you after your time at Ball State?
After this semester is over I’m going to leave BSU once and for all. It’s a weird bittersweet feeling. I did undergrad and my MA here, so I’ve spent 6 years and accumulated a lot of memories, good and bad. And I’m gonna miss it, but I’m also excited to go out somewhere new and live my life. I’ve been accepted to a few MFA programs for the Fall and I’m currently in the process of finalizing the details and deciding which one to attend.