Department News,  Opportunities for English Majors

Erin Keane: Beethoven, Beyoncé, and Beyond

Keane poster_small

In anticipation of Erin Keane‘s campus visit, junior Paula Weinman recently interviewed the three book poet, arts reporter, and theatre critic.

You have a wide variety of interests, including theatre and rock music. How have these interests shaped your poetry?

Theater has probably been the driving force behind my love of voice and persona in poetry. Music functions almost as another sense for me. Songs are woven into memories and albums represent eras in my life, and when I write from my own experience, I can’t divorce that experience from its soundtrack.

What is the most important piece of writing advice you’ve received so far?

“Write for your best reader.” — Jeanie Thompson

Your poetry frequently engages pop culture. In your view, what is the relationship between art and entertainment?

Art is entertainment. Tonight, I’m going to see Beethoven’s only opera, “Fidelio.” It’s about a woman who disguises herself as a man to get a job at the prison where her husband is jailed on trumped-up political charges. It’s Beethoven, it’s opera, it’s serious orchestral and vocal music, but I also expect it will be entertaining. I don’t find the high/low distinction useful in art anymore. Comics are just as valid of an art form as jazz, and what Beyoncé does in her videos is just as important as what Marina Abramović does in hers. There is only art that satisfies — even if it disturbs, distresses, devastates — and art that doesn’t.

You also teach at an MFA program at National University. Has teaching given you any new insights about writing?

Teaching form has made me a much better formalist. I’ve upped my iambic pentameter game considerably since I started teaching other writers how to write tighter sonnets.

Currently, you serve as the arts reporter for WFPL, the NPR affiliate in Louisville. What does that position involve? What do you find rewarding about it?

As WFPL’s arts and humanities reporter, I report on the issues, trends, people, and events that impact Louisville’s arts landscape. I’m also a theater critic, and I serve on the executive committee of the American Theatre Critics Association. The best part of my job is that I get to immerse myself in creative projects of all kinds every day. This week, I’ve been to three theatrical productions, interviewed a visual artist at her museum opening, wrote about a Shakespeare company, saw an opera, and read a new book of essays to prepare for an interview.

Mark your calendars: Erin Keane will be visiting Professor Bowman’s creative writing classes on Mon, October 6 and will give a reading (see the poster above) on Tuesday, October 7.


Paula Weinman
is a junior Creative Writing and Professional Writing major. Her work can be found in Parnassus, The Christian Communicator, The Aboite Independent, and the Ruminate blog. She loves children’s literature, sunny days, and good coffee.

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