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Q&A with Randy Blythe

  • April 15, 2015
Randy Blythe is an assistant professor in the UAB Department of English. Recently he sat down with graduate student Halley Cotton to answer a few questions.
Randy Blythe is an assistant professor in the UAB Department of English. Recently he sat down with graduate student Halley Cotton to answer a few questions.

What is your specialty?

My specialty is poetry, mainly because I’m too lazy to write fiction. It gives me the chance to be creative.

randy blythe 1What made you want to be a writer?

Not fitting in, probably. My mother was a reader. Reading was a big thing for me; I would read anything and everything. Writing was a way to define oneself especially when young.

Who is your favorite author? Why?

Rilke is one of my favorite poets. Anyone who writes poetry has to believe in magic. Rilke is good at conjuring that goes beyond syntax, word choice, and stanzas. Rodney Summers is a good one as well. He’s from Alabama. If you want to learn more about this place, he’s someone to read. Also, Donald Hall’s, The Painted Bed, is wonderful.

What has been your biggest professional challenge?

I would say finding a way to make the classroom organic, not a lot contrived, not a lot of judging. I wanted to motivate people to improve themselves and do that in interesting ways. It took a lot of trial and error and talking to mentors. It took being willing to learn and being open. You have to respect the student. Teaching is a dialogue.

What do you teach?

I teach 19th century American literature, a lot of Dickens and Emerson.

What led you to teaching?

I was a plumber for a long time; I didn’t start teaching until I was 30. I didn’t know it at the time but my mother was a teacher, my grandpa was a teacher as well as several cousins. It must be in the genes.

Why did you choose UAB?

By default, actually, I don’t care about moving away from Birmingham. But really, there’s a lot to be grateful for and proud of here. I went to school here and my mentors Ted and Mersmann showed me things I didn’t know were possible, like how fulfilling it is to the care for the souls of the young. It’s better than anything else I ever thought of.

What would you say to aspiring UAB students?

Work your butt off. Find discipline. Find your interests. There are other reasons to get college degrees besides a career. You learn how to lead an examined life. Live deeply; don’t skim the surface; stretch yourself. I believe in having fun and working hard. It is possible to do both.