On the heels of receiving the Whiting Writers' Award in October, a $50,000 prize, poet and University of South Florida English professor Jay Hopler has just been awarded a Rome Fellowship in Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He will have a one-year residency in Rome, where he plans to finish The Rooster King, his second book of poems. Hopler's first book of poetry also received significant recognition. The Green Squall (2005) received the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, the oldest annual literary award in the United States.
What is on your nightstand?
I have a full nightstand. I'm currently reading A Short History of the Shadow by Charles Wright, The Dream Songs by John Berryman, and I also have Raymond Chandler's The Simple Art of Murder.
Can you talk about a poet you hold particularly close?
That would be Berryman. He creates speakers that are artificial, self-consciously artificial. For example, in Dream Song 28: Snow Line, it is told from the point of view of a lost sheep. (Berryman) writes, "It was wet and white and swift and where I am, we don't know."
While teaching, when you come across a person not familiar with poetry, whom do you encourage them to read, to start with?
It's not so much that I recommend certain poets, I try to get them to read in a different way than they are used to. Most college-age students are taught to read poems to find out what they mean. As a poet, they have to read for pleasure. Read from beginning to end. Worry not what it means, but how lines are being put together and sounds are being used.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer