Today I’m joined by Amanda Hayden, the current Poet Laureate for Sinclair College and Professor of Humanities (Philosophy, Environmental Ethics, and World Religions). She has received numerous pedagogy awards, including the SOCHE Teaching Award and the prestigious League for Innovation Teaching Excellence Award (2020).
In addition to her children’s book, Windy Chicken Farm Animal Rescue, she has written Saunter Like Muir for Eco-pedagogies: Practical Approaches to Experiential Learning (Routledge, 2022). She just finished her debut poetry collection, American Saunter, inspired by her time living, camping, and backpacking across the U.S. She is currently working on a second collection, based on her European travel (which this submission is from). She lives on a farm with her partner, three daughters, three dogs, two cats, two goats, seven pigs, chickens, and Dorothy the duck.
You can find Amanda Hayden, along with a menagerie of adorable rescue animals, at windychicken.com.
AYS: Can you tell us about your experience writing your debut poetry collection, American Saunter, and what inspired you to write about your travels across the U.S.?
AH: I have had this idea for many years, to write more poems about travel. My teacher’s brain immediately organized it into three distinct travel areas – U.S., Europe, and India. I sat on it awhile, not sure which one to start with, and then the U.S. poems starting coming out one by one, so I went with that! I loved looking back through photographs, scrapbooks, travel journals, etc. for inspiration and so much came out I hadn’t even thought of in years – people, stories, etc. It was an amazing experience. I cannot wait to see it in print!
AYS: As a poet laureate and professor of humanities, you’ve received several pedagogy awards. Can you share some of your teaching methods and how they’ve influenced your writing?
AH: Great question. For twenty years, I have been teaching college level classes in Humanities (Philosophy, World Religions, Environmental Ethics, Native Studies) focusing on diversity, cultural competence, and religious literacy. I find myself drawn to similar themes when I write poetry: engaging with different views, examining our assumptions, cultivating mindfulness of history, sacred space, ritual, ceremony, architecture, music, art, and ultimately understanding each other, and ourselves, better! I LOVE how in poetry, I feel like I am able to reach further, stretch beyond the horizon, get to those spaces in between, expressing these connections and emotions with a different kind of freedom than in academic teaching and writing. Even though forms, style, and subject matter in my collections vary, they have in common a passionate commitment to observe, to make connections, and to express what it is to breathe, live, and engage with life in all its diverse formations. I have also seen first-hand over two decades of teaching what storytelling and shared experience can provide, what doors in the mind it can open.
AYS: You’ve written a children’s book, a poetry collection, and contributed to an academic publication. What has been the biggest challenge in writing across different genres and styles, and how do you approach these challenges?
AH: The same thread runs through it all I think – the love of writing, the love of learning, knowledge, and teaching. It’s more about keeping in mind the specific audience for that format and the container itself you’re filling – like a lemonade pitcher versus a yeti bottle versus a teacup. The container/format guides how you pour it (and what works better in it).
AYS: Your upcoming poetry collection is based on your European travels. How did your experiences in Europe differ from your travels across the U.S., and how do you plan to explore these differences in your writing?
AH: I find myself writing a lot more form poetry in this second collection – terza rima, villanelle, triolet, something about writing about old castles and medieval cathedrals makes me want to be more traditional, I guess! There’s plenty of free verse as well, but overall, the forms are a little more specific in this one. Content wise, there is much more ekphrastic poetry (art-inspired) and more themes with religion/history context. The organization is also very different – organized into four sections based on the different areas of Europe traveled. So, it’s almost like 4 mini-collections, each with their own flavor/story, but within a larger narrative of Europe travel.
AYS: Your farm is home to a variety of animals. Do they play a role in your writing, and if so, how do they influence your creative process?
AH: YES! First, I do almost all my drafts/editing/revising in my home office, which has a big open window looking out to the farm. So, I see my pigs bee-bopping along and the chickens running across the pasture and hear Dorothy (our duck) quacking and the goats running around. This background is always there during my writing process. Also, so many of their stories (they are rescues) are so inspiring and heart-filling to me, so they constantly remind me of the power of resilience and never giving up, which are both great things to hold onto as a writer. I plan to write a collection based on the farm and these special souls in the future.