The Letter Project

May 31, 2009

Special Delivery (02)

Filed under: Letters — Theresa Williams @ 2:38 am
Tags: ,

This is a letter I recently received from James Longley who was a student in several of my classes at BGSU.   In this letter he confirms the good news of getting accepted to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and shares his summer reading. –(TW)

May 17, 2009  (Athens, GA)

Dear Theresa,

It has been far too long since I last sat down to write you.  Forgive me, it seems even my best efforts to stay close with so many wonderful people leave long silence like this.

I am indeed attending the Iowa Writers’ Workshop this August.  Boston U., for whom I held out to the last minute, took a good long while to put me in their close-but-no-cigar category, so I didn’t have to tear my hair out choosing between the two.  However, in that interminable wait, Iowa went to some lengths to sweeten the deal (already sweet beyond words!) for me.  So I have more news:  next semester I will be paying for my time at Iowa by teaching one section per semester of GEN ED LIT  861:  Interpretation of Literature.  So, basically, Iowa is making to dreams come true at once.  The class will be a big, delicious challenge, I hope.  I’ll be teaching fifteen or so freshmen/sophomores, none of whom will be English majors.  The class for them, in most cases anyway, will be the only literature class they take in college.  Ever.  As in, for the rest of their adult lives.  So it’s my job to take the whole expanse of literature in English, across centuries and genres, and help them fall in love with it.  Make it possible for them to become life-long readers. 

I hope and hope and hope that this class can be for my students even ½ of what your Imaginative Writing class was for me.  I know that part of that will be determined by which students take my class, but I know for a fact that you consistently find ways to show students the magic of writing, of words and stories and poems; you have a gift for opening worlds to people, and I plan to emulate your style of teaching.  Any advice?

Speaking of teaching, congrats on making it through another year at BGSU.  I hope it was filled with many rewarding moments and a general lack of fuss.  Any big plans for the summer?  More work on the novel, or is that project over?  The next few months are going to be filled with travel, and moving preparations, and constant restaurant work, and music, but I’m hoping all these things will rise into the heat and extra light of summer to give me some time to rekindle my relationship to the Muse, the Angel, and the Demon.  The whole process of organizing and selling, essentially, my poetic self to grad schools put me into a creative drought from which I am only now slowly emerging.  The PAD competition was a good way to limber up, but only underscored the need for me to break new ground, to risk more with my writing.  I am tired of being “merely competent,” as James Wright was.  I want to burn, but it remains to be seen if this dry time will make for any creative destruction.

In the meantime, I am trying to read until I spill over.  A phenomenal novel in verse by Anne Carson called Autobiography of Red, which I demand you read this summer if you never have.  I actually plan to teach this genre-bending wonder to my students next semester.  Also, I’ve done some browsing through the poems of Czelow Milosz (sp?:  I don’t have the book in front of me), but I’m not prepared to comment on them yet.  I’ve also picked up some poems by James Galvin, Cole Swensen, Elizabeth Robinson, and Geoffrey O’Brien, all of whom will be teaching at Iowa next semester.  So far I like Swensen and Robinson, and O’Brien the best.  But the most recent and most powerful reading I’ve done is a return to The Epic of Gilgamesh.  I was barely aware of its greatness before, but this time through the whole face of human nature showed itself to me:  immutable, senseless, brutal, joyous, loving, frightened, triumphant, and desperately mortal.

I would be delighted to hear from you about what you’ve been reading and about everything else.

With love and squalor,




  1. Dear Jim, I found out your excellent news from The Letter Project! I am so very impressed with your success! Best of luck at Iowa…keep us all updated on your adventure…Debra Nicholson

    Comment by Debra Nicholson — May 31, 2009 @ 7:02 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks Debra, I’ll do my best to keep you up to date. 🙂

    Comment by James — June 2, 2009 @ 12:39 am | Reply

  3. Congratulations to you, Jim, and ALSO to you, Theresa.
    Just before I signed on today I was thinking about the energy you give to your students, so much of yourself beyond the “lecture.” Actually, you don’t “lecture,” but INSPIRE and NURTURE budding writers. You are as much a psychologist for the young aspirants as you are a model.
    So, in Jim’s success, you both deserve accolades and congrats.
    Much success, Jim! I feel you passion in your goal to inspire readers, if not writers.

    Comment by Sally Reece — February 16, 2012 @ 11:03 am | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: