Meet the Faculty: Dana Levin
Dana Levin, the interim director of the Creative Writing and Literature Department and an award-winning poet, discusses her latest book and her plans for the department.
By Jennifer Eberbach
|Dana Levin is the interim director of the Creative Writing and Literature department.
Dana Levin is back. Chair of the university’s Creative Writing and Literature Department from 2000 to 2009, she’s serving as the department’s interim chair
this year. Chair Matt Donovan
is currently in Rome for a 12-month residency at the American Academy of Arts and Letters after winning the prestigious Rome Fellowship in Literature
Levin, a 2007 Guggenheim Fellow and author of three books—including the recently released Sky Burial (Copper Canyon)—has enjoyed a decades-long relationship with the university, its students, and community. Read on to learn why Levin thinks writing and teaching are interdependent, and how she plans to engage her students and fellow faculty members this year.
Santa Fe University encourages its faculty members to be artist-practitioners. As a published poet and essayist, how does teaching help you write?
They are mutually helpful activities. Teaching constantly requires revisiting the basics of poetry, my own attitudes and opinions, and master writers. I’m engaged in the process. And every once in a while, I come out of the dream that the muse offers me to realize what I can incorporate into my classes.
What is your teaching style like?
I hope it’s a combination of passion for the subject and an interest in engaging students. I’m a taskmaster, but I bring a lot of passionate energy into the classroom.
What is one lesson you’ve learned from students during your 20-plus-year teaching career?
I’ve learned that the font of creativity is never empty! The exciting thing is that you never have any idea what amazing, wild things will suddenly emerge from somebody’s pen. I also learn from their frustrations and the difficulties they face when they are trying to engage literature and writing.
You are acting as interim chair of the department while your colleague Matt Donovan is on leave. What is your approach to the position?
It’s kind of like what I do with teaching: a combination of sweetness and an iron fist! The one thing that is really important is never losing sight that the reason I’m filling this position is to serve our students. I want to bring that message to the faculty and apply it to the structures we create for students outside of the classroom.
What do you want to accomplish as interim chair?
I really want young, burgeoning creative writers out there to know that we have an amazing program at Santa Fe University, and I want to help with recruitment efforts as much as possible.
Aside from your work at the university, what else is going on in your professional life?
My newest book of poetry, Sky Burial, was released in March. I’m doing a reading at my alma mater, New York University, on September 22, and the nonprofit Poetry Society of America will interview me afterward. A big review came out in The New Yorker recently, and I’ve also started writing these really nerdy essays about poetry and parts of speech.
Last year, I started Muse Times Two, a poetry reading series at Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse in Santa Fe, with alumnus Tommy Archuleta. The idea is to bring in writers of national note and pair them with local poets.
Where did you gain the confidence to pursue a career in poetry?
I had a wonderful school experience, elementary through college, with really encouraging teachers who gave me permission to write poems—which can be unusual. Poetry isn’t as widely read as other kinds of literary arts, but I have a passion for it. I hope I can be a mentor to students in the same way by giving them the permission to develop their own voice.