Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Erin Adair-Hodges on reading, writing and dying happy

New Mexico-native Erin Adair-Hodges is now a professor at the University of Toledo. She has had her poetry published widely, featured on PBS NewsHour, and has taught English in Prague, Czech Republic. She came to Toledo as a visiting professor in the creative writing department and, now, her first book is being published after winning the University of Pittsburgh’s Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize.

About the book

Let’s All Die Happy is a collection of poetry.  Adair-Hodges hadn’t thought of publishing her works in a book. “I think I just lacked the self-confidence for a long time,” she said.

The title of the book is the first line from a poem in the collection.

“I chose the line as the title because I think it reflects tonally the spirit of the collection. The tone tends to be a mix of dark humor, honesty, and a bit of slyness. The other thing that links the collection is that all the poems are told through a women’s lense, a woman’s perspective on the world. I wanted to emphasize and give voice to that perspective,” said Adair-Hodges.  “This is not an autobiographical collection. Even though many of the things come out of my experience, I have taken biographical details to invoke other emotional truths.”

She openly embraces mixing reality with creative liberty. “The reality of what happened should never get in the way of writing a poem. Our allegiance [as poets] is not to facts but to truth. I see a difference between the two,” she added.

Writing and being published

Adair-Hodges’s favorite experience being published in a journal was her first one. After a seven-year-long break from writing poetry, she didn’t want to send out her work at first. “I was petrified,” she said. “My friends pushed me to send some of my work out. And the first accepted poem was selected by The Georgia Review, one of the country’s best journals.”

As for her book, she didn’t realize she was in the process until she was halfway through writing it.

“For me, the bulk of the poems for the book were written in two years. I didn’t realize I was writing a book for about half of that time. Once I realized it, it informed my writing and selection choices,” she said.

When Let’s All Die Happy won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, Adair-Hodges felt truly humble. She said, “I’m really lucky. The University of Pittsburgh’s poetry series is a really well-respected poetry prize. It’s humbling to see the list of poets who have earned the prize before.”

Her advice for other writers: “One: read. However much you’re reading is not enough. More than anything, you have to be willing to risk something in your writing. You need to go to those places you’re afraid to go to.” She added, “We have to keep in mind that as literary writers, that when we get rejections, very rarely is it that your work isn’t any good, but just that it might not be what they are looking for or need at that time.”

Let’s All Die Happy is available on Amazon and the University of Pittsburgh Press. It is expected to soon become available at the University of Toledo bookstore.

Adair-Hodges will perform a public reading at 6pm Thursday, November 2 in Libbey Hall at the University of Toledo. It will include a Q&A session and book signing.

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