Catching Up with Robin Becker

Kelsey Bradbury, Research Unplugged intern
November 06, 2010
headshot of Robin Becker

Robin Becker

How do people respond when you tell them you're a poet?

When I tell people that I am a poet, they sometimes say the following: 1) "I'm a poet, too!" 2) "What do you write about?" 3) "How do you make a living?" 4) "Have you ever published anything?"

What has been your most rewarding experience as Penn State's Laureate thus far?

Serving as the Penn State Laureate, I will visit 13 Commonwealth Campuses by the end of the year. So far, my trips to Beaver and Greater Allegheny have introduced me to some wonderful faculty, students and staff. The students in the classes I taught appeared well prepared to talk about poems. About 60 people attended the readings I gave on each campus. On both campuses I met folks deeply involved in undergraduate education, and I left with a new admiration for their achievements.

Do you have a favorite writer/poet?

My favorite poet changes almost daily as I read. Today my favorite poet is Jane Hirshfield, author of the collection called After. Just last week, Hirshfield came to Penn State and read in our prestigious Rolling series as the 2010 Emily Dickinson Lecturer.

When you're not working, what are your favorite pastimes?

Favorite pastimes: walking around New York City; going to art museums; working with the dog I rescued; hiking in New England and Pennsylvania; reading in an adobe in Taos, New Mexico; spending time with beloved friends.

How can poetry become more a part of our daily lives?

The Internet has made poetry accessible to all. I recommend the site called Poetry Daily for an easy-to-navigate introduction to poetry online. Attending poetry readings here at Penn State is a great way to get involved as a literary citizen. Check out the Rolling series sponsored by the MFA program in the English department. We have some great folks coming to University Park. Peruse the poetry sections of bookstores. Subscribe to a few literary magazines.

What spot on Penn State's campus do you find to be most inspiring? Why?

As my friend Carolyn likes to say, "We're fortunate to teach on such a beautiful campus." I agree and find many areas quite lovely. I enjoy walking up the Mall and around Hort Woods. I love our new Arboretum and am always discovering new nooks around campus. The staff that plants and maintains our flowers and shrubs deserves our thanks!

What else can you tell us about your writing?

I write to discover what I think and feel. Like many writers, I sometimes begin with a word or phrase or image. After that, I hope to generate an openness to whatever feelings and bits of language "pass through" me. I try to gather from a sense of abundance, not scarcity. I try to remain receptive to whatever images and scenes and fragments appear in my consciousness. I write them down without censoring. Later, I go back and try to find a shapely form or container for my language.

Animals, especially dogs and horses, play a large role in my imaginative life. Dogs live with us, among us, relying on us for their physical health and emotional well-being, their safety and happiness. They comfort us and allay loneliness and fear. All this....without "language" as we conceive of it.

Much sorrow enters my poetry, the ordinary sorrows that befall all mortal beings who love and lose in the course of a lifetime. Simultaneously, I feel immensely grateful for the joys I find daily: in my walks with my dog, in the conversations with beloved friends, in the pleasures of reading, in the natural world.

Last Updated November 06, 2010