USF professor Hopler talks about being a National Book Award finalist
When the finalists for the 2016 National Book Awards were announced on Oct. 6, Tampa was represented: Jay Hopler, a professor in the University of South Florida's creative writing program, is a finalist in the poetry category for The Abridged History of Rainfall, which will be published by McSweeney's on Nov. 15. The NBA winners will be announced on Nov. 16 at a gala in New York City.
After the announcement, Hopler took time during what he called a "hectic" day to answer a few questions for the Times.
How do you feel about being nominated for the National Book Award?
Grateful. Honored to be in such amazing company. And thrilled, absolutely thrilled.
Will you be going to the awards ceremony?
I wouldn’t miss it for anything. Win or lose, for a couple of nights in November I get to share the stage with some of my favorite authors. What a gift that is!
Do the poems in The Abridged History of Rainfall have a common genesis or inspiration?
My father’s death in 2009, that’s where the poems come from. Where they go from there, though, is a different story. Everything makes its way into these poems: Flemish Renaissance art, the Umbrian countryside and the streets of Rome, the poetry of Hart Crane and Wallace Stevens, the University of Miami c. 1947, Johnny Cash, cockfighting, you name it.
Does Florida play a role in your poetry?
It does, but it doesn’t play as big a role in The Abridged History of Rainfall as it did in Green Squall, my first book. Rainfall has its share of Florida poems, for sure — in fact, The Rooster King, the long poem that comprises the entire third section of the book, takes place in Ybor City — but the Mountain West appears in several poems and Italy is in there, too, thanks to all the time I spent in Rome.
Does teaching creative writing have an impact on your own creative process? If so, what is it?
My teaching informs my writing. Spending my days surrounded by talented young writers, arguing about great literature and knocking ideas around—it fires me up and sends me back to my work with a renewed sense of urgency and excitement.