In Class With Professor Deborah Landau of New York University

A primary mission of Frontier is to provide high quality resources and practical help for serious poets—so we’ve been reaching out to poetry professors to help give clarity to this strange journey and stranger craft. This month, we got the chance to hear from Deborah Landau, Professor and director of Creative Writing Program at New York University.


What is the most common piece of writing advice you find yourself giving your students?

Read as much — as widely and deeply and attentively— as you can. Protect your writing time. Stay off the internet. 


What poets are you teaching this semester? 

This fall I’m teaching my signature graduate seminar on The Art of the Book — we’ll read recent books by Ocean Vuong, Jos Charles, Nicole Sealey, Ada Limon, Jericho Brown, Matthew Zapruder, Brenda Shaughnessy, Sally Wen Mao, Nuar Alsadir, and Javier Zamora. These are some of the most vibrant and important voices in American poetry now — and it’s especially exciting and inspiring that three of these poets (Javier Zamora, Ocean Vuong, and Nicole Sealey) were themselves recently students in the class at NYU.

During the course of the semester we consider the distinct poetics of each writer—as well as the shape and structure of each collection as a whole—and contemplate the strengths and risks of each book as a way to learn how best to construct our own. Students write weekly creative and critical responses, and the author of the assigned book visits to join our discussion in the final hour of class.


What’s the best thing about teaching poetry and creative writing?

I truly love my job teaching in and directing NYU’s Creative Writing Program. It’s a deep and genuine pleasure to spend my days reading and writing and talking with other poets about poetry. I learn so much from our brilliant students — they are always challenging and expanding my idea of what’s possible in poems.

Deborah Landau is the author of four collections of poetry: Soft Targets (out now, available here), The Uses of the Body andThe Last Usable Hour, both Lannan Literary Selections from Copper Canyon Press, and Orchidelirium, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye for the Robert Dana Anhinga Prize for Poetry. Her other awards include a Jacob K Javits Fellowship from the US Department of Education and a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship.

The Uses of the Body was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, and included on “Best of 2015” lists by The New Yorker, Vogue BuzzFeed, and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others. A Spanish edition is forthcoming from Valparaiso Ediciones.

Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Tin House, Poetry, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, selected for The Best American Poetry, and included in anthologies such as Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation, Not for Mothers Only, The Best American Erotic Poems, and Women’s Work: Modern Poets Writing in English.

Landau was educated at Stanford University, Columbia University, and Brown University, where she was a Javits Fellow and received a Ph.D. in English and American Literature. She teaches in and directs the Creative Writing Program at New York University, and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, sons, and daughter.

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