The English Department proudly introduces Mason alumnus and poet Peter Streckfus as its newest full-time faculty member in Creative Writing. Join us in welcoming him (back) to Mason.
Tell us a bit about your new book.
Errings is mostly composed of apostrophes, poems in which the speaker turns away from the world at hand to speak to someone or something across a distance—a lost leader, a future protégé, a remote love. The book is also largely an elegy for my father, who passed away in 2009, and a number of the poems address him. The title sequence of the book, “Erring,” for example, comprises collaged and erased language from an unpublished young adult novel he wrote when he was about my age. The poem is a dialogue with his protagonist, a thinly veiled child version of himself. Other poems in the collection pick up on the quest in his novel and turn it to other ends. A few are addressed to my wife, the poet and translator Heather Green, who will also be teaching at Mason come January.
Since you were a graduate student here at Mason, can you tell us about your experiences?
After finishing at Mason in 2000, I moved to San Francisco. There, following nine months temping and an eight-month stint as a receptionist, I got a job as the chief writer and publicist at the San Francisco Art Institute. I had no background in communications writing or publicity, but I had spent three years at Mason analyzing examples of work I admired and adapting its conventions in my own writing. I applied this strategy to writing press releases, feature articles, newsletters, and speeches, just as I do in my creative writing. During that time, I was also working on poems. I had a simple schedule, writing after work twice a week in the evening for three hours or so and then for a longer session, five hours, one day during the weekend.
In 2005, a year after my first book came out, I returned to teaching—for the first two years at a low-residency MFA pro- gram while also teaching at a community college in San Antonio, Texas, then in San Francisco. Then I joined the faculty of the University of Alabama’s Program in Creative Writing. I love how teaching always involves a deeper kind of learning.
And I love finding new ways to facilitate my students’ learning how to teach themselves as they follow their passions. This is one of the values of the MFA, in my mind—it teaches you how to teach yourself.
How does it feel coming back to Mason?
I learned so much from my teachers here. Now I am teaching among them. As an educator, I can think of no greater honor. I’m also excited and curious about the growth that Mason has experienced in the past 14 years. The new BFA Program in Creative Writing is particularly stirring.
What is your life like outside the classroom? tell us a little bit about who you are.
Outside of the classroom and my own writing, I like to walk, bike, cook, read, and garden. Most of my free time in the past two years has been devoted to being a new father. My wife, Heather Green, and I have a daughter, Ione Carroll Streckfus- Green, who just turned two at the end of May. And we have another child, a boy, born as classes were starting. So much of my reading lately has involved itsy bitsy spiders and sentences like “goodnight nobody, goodnight mush.” I love it. The mystery in children’s literature is right up my alley.
What courses are you teaching this fall?
I am teaching a graduate poetry workshop that I have subtitled “The Poet’s Notebook.” Participants will maintain a poet’s notebook writing practice, which will include 100 consecutive days of writing; devise writing exercises for themselves and others; and share new work with each other on a weekly basis. Our reading will include a lot of poetry and other materials, including a bit of phenomenology and neuroscience as those relate to writing. I’m really looking forward to it.