Yesterday, Springfield College and our Humanities Department welcomed to campus Linda Hogan, a nationally recognized Chickasaw poet! Originally from Colorado and living in Oklahoma, Hogan is lucky enough to travel all over the world to share and expand her writing, especially her poetry. However, she doesn’t limit herself to just being a powerfully dedicated and reflective poet; she has published essays and novels, is a creative writing teacher for at-risk students in her Chickasaw community, and writes with political, historical, environmentalist, indigenous, and feminist themes. It was a pleasure gaining a glimpse of Linda Hogan’s person and interests and to be in her company throughout yesterday’s afternoon and evening.
Hogan made her Springfield College debut in Dr. Lloyd’s Advanced Creative Writing Class (Poetry), where in a discussion-based fashion, my fellow students and I asked questions ranging from symbolism in certain poems, to her experiences as a writer, traveler, and person of Chickasaw background. Through Hogan’s contemplative answers, my classmates and I learned about her writing process and inspirations. Though she explained how her poetry flows very organically and intuitively, Hogan also has a vast knowledge of botany and biology, which are other areas of interest in her life. With a laugh, Hogan reminisced that a poetry workshop course she took in college was “the most horrible experience of my life”. As she described, this particular course was very rigid and critical, characteristics of an environment which Dr. Lloyd counteracts in our class’s workshops by instead building a supportive and creative writing space. For the hour my class spent with our guest, Linda Hogan, she entertained our inquiries about her inspirations, struggles, and experiences as a writer. Hogan dismissed notions of writer’s block saying there is “no end to creativity and imagination … there is always something in the world to write about, something beautiful, funny, interesting, pathetic…”, and the core of good poetry is “reach[ing] a truth we all share” paired with finding a poem’s “heartbeat”. Hogan stressed the importance her journal writing plays in her life, and shared that she often starts two projects in the same notebook: writing from left to right on one side, then flipping the book upside down and continuing the other project from the back. Though our class discussion ended, signaling me to move on to my fifth hour of English class of the day, there was more to be learned from our poetic guest later in the night.
Because I make myself involved in our Humanities Department and am a member of the Editorial Board for our campus’ literary magazine, The Alden Street Review, I was invited with a handful of other English students and supporting faculty to have dinner with Linda Hogan before her evening poetry reading open to all of campus. In this unique setting, some of my friends, professors, and I were able to engage with and listen to this author’s stories. She shared with us how she has dabbled in all genres of writing, but believes that “poetry was really [her] first language”. Many of Hogan’s poems are based on simple wonders of nature: plants, animals, rain, leaves, the body, along with indigenous traditions, tribal dances, experiences, mystical relations, stories, etc. We also learned that all of her first drafts, whether a novel or poetry are hand-written; I made her laugh by explaining how my laptop battery dies after 10 minutes anyways, which is apparently a predicament she shares. Later in the night, Hogan introduced and read a good number of her known poems, and even a few others that she deemed “rough”. Some of the most memorable poems for me included “The Singers”, “Memorial Day”, “Eyes of Animals”, “Eucalyptus”, and “Sweetness”.
Throughout the day, I’d spent a total of almost four hours with Linda Hogan as company. It was extremely interesting to learn about her as a writer, and the person she is outside of writing. Hogan has recently written a book for National Geographic, is working on a dancing opera about the world of turtle mythology, and plans on working at the Cincinnati Zoo soon! Along with her ambitious qualities as a writer, Linda Hogan seemed a very intelligent, polite, reflective, and friendly person, and I’m sure every person that met her is glad she came to Springfield College (we love guests!). To check out her website, click here!