February 20, 2017. By Hilary Broman
Senior Staff Reporter
Erin Adair-Hodges, CNM English instructor, is scheduled to release her first book of poems titled, “Let’s All Die Happy,” this fall, she said.
She was the winner of the Pitt Poetry first book prize at the University of Pittsburgh Press, Hodges said.
The book is told through a woman’s lens and is very much about the world as experienced as a woman in this culture, she said.
“It investigates lots of different ways in which the world can wear on girls and women,” she said, “as young girls, as daughters, for some of us, as mothers, and as lovers.”
It is also an investigation of apostasy and a loss of faith in religious and cultural institutions, she said.
“What happens when you no longer find meaning in those, where do you find meaning?” Hodges said.
There is also a real dark humor throughout the book, she said.
Hodges has always been interested in Creative writing and she received a Masters degree in poetry, she said.
She stopped writing after she received her degree because she had to work many jobs to make ends meet and she felt, in many ways, that her voice didn’t matter, she said.
“I had been led to feel as if my voice and my perspectives weren’t valuable,” Hodges said.
About three years ago, after the birth of her son, Hodges began to think about bringing poetry back into her life, she said.
“I started thinking about who I am outside of my obligations, which is something I think that’s especially important for women to do because too often we get defined by our relationships and obligations to others,” she said.
Hodges decided to commit to making poetry a priority, she said.
“I only started getting published in journals and then getting my book taken when I treated poetry like a job and not just a fun hobby,” Hodges said.
Hodges ended up creating an early draft of her manuscript at the end of 2014 and the version that won the Pitt Poetry Prize was complete in early 2016, she said.
“It was pretty fast”, she said, “but I think it happened so quickly because it had been years of me storing up all of that energy and focus and because I felt like since I was getting a late start, I had no time to lose.”
Hodges worked closely with Rebecca Aronson, another CNM instructor who also published a book this year, to provide each other feedback, she said.
“Although we write very differently, we’ve become really good critics of each other’s work,” she said.
Hodges and Aronson both won contests within six months of each other and Hodges is genuinely happy for Aronson’s success, she said.
“There is plenty of space for lots of great work to be out there. I like to celebrate my friends who get their work recognized,” she said.
Hodges’ poetry was recently featured on PBS NewsHour, she said.
She was asked to submit a poem that spoke to the current climate in this country, she said.
She submitted a poem called, “The Jennifer Century.” Click here to read.
Hodges attributes a lot of her success to being able to rediscover her own weirdness, she said.
“I was a deeply creative, weird thinker and then I lost it for a long time,” Hodges said, “I think becoming a more successful writer was a process of getting back to that original, almost childlike way of processing the world.”
Hodges said that she sees this in students all the time. They give her answers that they think she wants to hear and that’s not the case.
“What I want is their unique, fresh take, formed by their experiences,” she said, “What can you, as an entirely unique person, with entirely unique perspectives bring to this that we’ve never heard before?”
With that, Hodges encourages students to explore classes that are not just a part of their degree program but classes that will help them see their lives differently, she said.
“Poetry has absolutely been that in my own life,” Hodges said.
Hodges’ book is scheduled to be released in the fall, she said.
Her book will be able to be purchased through her website and the University of Pittsburgh Press website.