Award-winning poets Brenda Hillman and Rusty Morrison, formerly teacher and student, reunited to share their poetry and reflect on how teaching inspires their work as part of Saint Mary's Creative Reading Writing Series.
The May 9 event was designed to celebrate the professional accomplishments of alumni of the MFA Program in Creative Writing by pairing one of the program's core faculty members with a distinguished MFA graduate.
"It's such a great honor to be here and to have taught [Morrison]," said Hillman, an English professor who has taught at Saint Mary's for more than two decades. "In a lot of ways I think of students as my children, and it's nice to be able to read with Rusty, who's now a sister to me."
Morrison read poetry from her collection Whethering, which won the Colorado Prize for Poetry, and pieces from her newest work.
"I've never read with a former professor," said Morrison, a 1999 graduate of the MFA program. "I am deeply honored to have this opportunity. I feel so much gratitude to Brenda, both because of the impact her poetry has had on my life and because the impact her teaching has had upon my poetry practice."
Hillman, who holds the Olivia Filippi Chair in Poetry at Saint Mary's, read from several of her books, including her most recent, Pieces of Air in the Epic, as well as some yet to be published poems. She offered high praise for the talents of her former student.
"Rusty Morrison was a fantastically inspiring person to work with in our program," Hillman said. "She combines an immense intelligence with a musical, lyric exploration of contemporary. Her poems are smart and beautiful, very subtle."
The poets also discussed the impact teaching has on their work.
"I find teaching inspiring, and I think it's the only line of work I could have done," Hillman said. "The combination of working with the undergrads and the graduate students has been extraordinarily inspiring. It gives you ideas about language and how you can stretch yourself."