Finding Your Creative Way
Trying Very Different Approaches to Practice with Brad Aaron Modlin
“There is no one right way, there is your way.” —Brad Aaron Modlin
Preview: Episode 82 Trying New Creative Approaches with Brad Aaron Modlin
If I could choose anyone to have as a professor, I think I’d choose Brad Aaron Modlin, Associate Professor of poetry and the Reynolds Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at University of Nebraska, Kearney He has a penchant for pulling students and community members into fun creative challenges. “I tend to be someone who resists routine,” he says. In this episode, we talk about some of the different approaches he’s tried, ways to support a creative practice, the importance of getting up and moving around (sitting is the new smoking, says NPR), how interacting with strangers is an important part of his practice, and what would be taught in his dream class.
Brad Aaron Modlin’s book Everyone at This Party Has Two Names won The Cowles Poetry Prize. His poetry has been the text for orchestral scores; the springboard for an NYC art exhibition; and the focus of an episode of The Slowdown with U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón. The premier episode of Poetry Unbound with Pádraig Ó Tuama was about his poem “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade.” He teaches graduates and undergrads both in-person and online; coordinates the visiting writers series; and forgets where in the classroom he left his flip-flops.
What We’re Reading and Listening to:
Is there no such thing as nothing? My friend John sent me this article in Big Think about the nature of nothing. I’d never heard before of quantum foam … and now nothing isn’t nothing after all?
If you’re a bird lover, I so highly recommend Dawn Songs: A Birdwatcher’s Field Guide to the Poetics of Migration, edited by Jamie K. Reaser and J. Drew Lanham. These poems and essays share wisdom, wonder, lament and celebrate the nature of birds and how it is they inform and bring beauty and meaning to our lives.
I was one of many poets who contributed to a beautiful book, Writing the Land: Currents, edited by Lis McLoughlin, that gives voice to 22 lands from across the country. I wrote for the Colorado Land Trust about the Potter Ranch located between Ridgway and Ouray in southwest Colorado. If you, too, feel strongly about exploring our relationship with the land we live on and land conservation, check out the book and the project. Also, thanks to Elizabeth MacLeod Burton-Crow for her skills putting together this video of me reading on the land.
This visual poem, “The Physics of Melt,” from previous Emerging Form guest Sarah Gilman feels like the perfect thing for a winter’s day. It begins, “Snow is blank only briefly— just after it falls.”
Another Emerging Form guest, James Crews, gave me comfort this week, with his poem, “How to Comfort Someone.”
To the Astronaut Who Hopes Life on Another Planet Will Be More Bearable
As in, if the people there like everyone, even
the ones they are not related to, if they like
strangers and budding plants, like to hum the songs
in each other’s heads, like food
too much to chew it, and too much not
to share, if they like to be alive
more than to bomb or be bombed, like
visitors, like thirst, like letting it last
ten extra minutes to boost the thrill of water,
brush their mouths with baking soda
so their next drink tastes sweet, if their games
do not name winners and losers, if no
one must deadbolt a door behind them in fear,
if no child or adult hears, I did not invite you
to my party, if people do not exchange
paper and say, This paper is worth
the unhappiness of many, if no
night outlasts a day, if no
one oversleeps for sadness, or if
they do, someone—it’s a network
better than any antiquated phone tree—
lies atop the quilt beside the sleeper and waits,
matching their inhales and exhales,
and no one wakes alone.
So far away and so down
here, we’re all rooting for you,
astronaut. We squint toward your ship,
which must be—must be—
traveling somewhere overhead.
We rise from these creaky beds
in our empty rooms
and stretch the curtains wide.
—Brad Aaron Modlin, first published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
A Note About Paid Subscriptions:
First, we want to thank ALL our subscribers! We are so grateful you join us in this conversation about what it is to engage with yourself, the world and others in a creative way. And a BIG thank you to our paid subscribers. You make this podcast possible. Starting this month, only our paid subscribers will receive our bonus episodes as a thank you for their financial support.
This week, listen to Brad talk about a heart-opening, blood pumping, joy raising way to start a creative day, ways to dismantle our fear of not being good enough, and how changing the genre can open surprising doors. If you are not yet a paid subscriber, you can go now to our website, EmergingForm.substack.com, or by clicking the button below. Thank you!
(share your answers with us here on Substack or in our FB group)
How do you get yourself out of the chair and moving during a long writing stint?
What are effective ways you’ve held yourself accountable for a creative practice?
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