A ‘Magpie Approach’ to Poetry
By Kaitlin Emmett '20
Rebecca Lehmann’s poetry has been praised for being replete with humor:
I dream a dream of
coupons. My discounted
life waddles before
me like pigeons on a cornice.
What about multi-celled life? What about invertebrates
and vertebrates? Tell me evolution.
Sometimes even a little dark:
Death is a patient godfather, waiting
for us all to come in the side door.
Mostly, her poems are a mix of all three elements — and more.
Assistant Professor of English and gender and women’s studies, Rebecca Lehmann, creates poetry that is uniquely hers — not necessarily autobiographical, but always pertaining to her personal experiences.
Speaking on her writing process, she says,
“I have a magpie approach to poetics, taking bits and pieces that catch my interest, and stitching them together into a hopefully coherent poem.”
Lehmann’s poems speak profoundly on themes of womanhood, feminism, gender, and femininity. Her forthcoming book Ringer was recently chosen by distinguished poet, Ross Gay, as the winner of the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry in AWP’s 2018 Award Series. The collection draws on these themes while incorporating her experience as a young mother.
On being chosen, Lehmann revealed, “I was extremely honored to be selected for this prize, and particularly to be chosen by Ross Gay, whose work I deeply admire. The prize is certainly a validation of the hard work I’ve been doing as a poet.”
Lehmann developed a lot of poetry as a high school student and has let it blossom into a full-fledged love affair. She said, “I always had a talent for working language and words into pleasing patterns, but as I’ve gotten older, poetry has taken on a greater urgency for me, and I feel like there is more at stake in my writing.”
In addition to her newly published collection, Ringer, Lehmann has had an abundance of poetry published in many acclaimed journals, as well as another book, Between the Crackups, which won the Crashaw Prize in 2011.
Poetry at Saint Mary's
Lehmann’s deep connection with the themes that constitute her poetry upholds the Saint Mary’s mission as a women’s college. “The College’s mission of empowering young women aligns so well with my own focus on gender and feminism,” she said.
In the classroom, Lehmann carries out the mission through teaching the poetic craft and guiding students through their own journey of poetry. No doubt her teaching has inspired and developed strong poets, but she emphasizes how much she benefits from working with students. “I’m constantly impressed and inspired by my students, and I love watching them realize their writing goals, and having breakthroughs in their craft. It keeps me in touch with the creative process, and reminds me why I love writing,” she said.
In her time at the College, she collaborates with students through creative writing courses such as Poetry and Literary Nonfiction, among others. In the spring of 2019, she is teaching a new literature course on feminist poetry, and will share her extensive knowledge on the genre.