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What Is It Like To Be A Poetry Professor?

Willie Lee Kinard III, can you tell people what you do, like, what's your job?

"Okay, technically, I am an adjunct instructor of English, currently teaching critical reading, composition, and intro to creative writing at the University of South Carolina. I graduated from there in 2015. I am teaching as alumni faculty in my old Scholars Program through Student Support Services, which we collectively know at the University and throughout South Carolina's Trio services or through Trio programs. My specific academic Department was the Opportunity Scholars Program, which was an Initiative for first-generation college students who technically qualify for a Pell Grant, which is to say for smart poor kids who had never been able to get to college. I teach there now, English 101 for about, I want to say, 48, maybe 50 students right now. And I also teach intro to creative writing to about 20 students. They keep me on my toes."

"But outside of that and probably around that, I am a graphic designer and a brand designer. It's kind of like my alter ego, which is weird because I've kind of been doing that for about the same amount of time as I've been writing poetry formally now. But I make logos, color palettes, brand patterns, marketing schemes, mock-ups, and things for businesses, entrepreneurs, telephone viewers, media influencers, artists, and stuff now. I have a Bachelor's in graphic design. I've drawn all my life. It's been helpful. I think, in part, it has also kind of been one of the things that's helped me move into poetry a little more seamlessly."

"I feel like marketing and advertising come up all the time as it’s a relatively common field for poets. How do you think working in branding and things like that connects with poetry?"

"For me, my love of type is almost always forefront in my poetry, whether or not you really pay attention to it or not. I'm generally always cognizant of how my poems are designed, how their lines break, where their hyphens and other sets of punctuation appear, just as a general typesetter and editor. I'd argue I'm a better editor than I am a poet, which is saying a lot of things."

"To me, my basis for line breaks and understanding for readings of my poems are based on graphic design types and principles. Like, the less amount of words in a line, the quicker you can read it. If you end the line on an action word or a verb, it generally makes the person want to pull to the next line because it's interesting. General rules of, you know, try not to have too many rivers, try not to have too many widows and orphans. My poems generally look neat, and when I break rules, I intentionally break them. But I don't always give evidence that I've broken things. I'm the type of person who will open a line with an em dash."

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