A Conversation with Lauren Slaughter

Lauren Slaughter is an Assistant Professor in the UAB Department of English. Originally from Philadelphia, PA, she teaches creative writing, poetry writing, late American and British literature, and composition. She sat down with graduate student Haley Cotton to talk about writing and teaching.
lauren slaughterLauren Slaughter is an Assistant Professor in the UAB Department of English. Originally from Philadelphia, PA, she teaches creative writing, poetry writing, late American and British literature, and composition. She sat down with graduate student Haley Cotton to talk about writing and teaching.

Where did you complete your course of study and what is your specialization?
I studied English and creative writing at Kenyon College for my BA, received my MFA in Fiction and Poetry from the University of Alabama, and attended the University of Montana for my MA in English Literature.

What do you teach at UAB and what are your hopes for your students?
I teach Beginning Fiction and Beginning Poetry workshops, Introduction to Creative Writing, Introduction to Literature, Late British and Irish Literature, Late American Literature, and Composition (EH 102). Generally I teach Composition online. As for my hopes for my students? I guess nobody ever goes to the mall anymore, but there used to a totally out-there gift store called Spenser’s, and among the gag vomit and tie-dyed t-shirts, you could find what looked like a crystal ball filled with lightning. A quick Google search tells me it’s called a Plasma Ball. I even found a YouTube video.

So, that. I hope that for my students.

Who has influenced your writing the most?
As for poets, Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and Rainer Maria Rilke were the ones who first reeled me in as an undergrad, I think. My students know about my ritual of surrounding myself with open books when I write, flipped to the poems speaking to me most at the moment. Claudia Emerson, Wislawa Szymnorska, C.D. Wright, Mary Jo Bang, Lorraine Niedecker, Anne Carson, Erin Belieu, James Wright, Carol Frost, Lucie Brock-Broido, Dan Beachy-Quick, and Bruce Smith, are the most oft-invited recently. But it’s always changing.

Looking again at the question, though, I see that I also could have talked about my grandfather. We never met, but he was a writer and, thus, writing and the arts were always valued in my family. Writing was something I was encouraged to do. I realize now how rare that is, and sometimes I think it made all the difference.

Can you explain a little on your experience with publishing a book of poetry? What did the process look like?
One of my students caught me after class recently to ask a version of this question. I think he worded it more like, “so are you, like, all that now?” But in all seriousness, it’s incredibly satisfying and affirming to see one’s poems grouped together as a thing. Even better are the new opportunities to share one’s work with readings and such. And best? Moving on from the poems included in the book to new work, the next thing.

For me, the process took a few years from acceptance to publication. Seems like a long time, I know, but it’s not particularly unusual. In the interim, though, I wrote a lot of new poems and stories!

Where is your favorite place in Birmingham to relax and write?
Aside from my couch? Urban Standard and Church Street Coffee and Books.

If you could say anything to perspective UAB creative writing students, what would you say?
Come!

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