By Kari Lutes, Features Editor
Most students have experienced a moment of inspiration from their professor, but few imagine being the source to inspire their professor’s work. Marcia Hurlow, professor of creative writing and journalism, points to students as the source of inspiration for her new book of poetry, “Brushstrokes on Water.”
In 2014, Hurlow was teaching a poetry class in which she required students to write an ekphrastic (a vivid description based on art) poem.
“I was really inspired by a lot of the poems,” Hurlow said of the class. “I thought okay, now I need to do this.”
Soon after, on a trip to Budapest for a linguistics conference, Hurlow got the chance to start her book. Skipping a part of the conference because of the cost, Hurlow spent a day at the city museum, where she began writing seven of the 20 poems in her book.
“Suddenly the poems started flying at me,” Hurlow said of the experience.
She found inspiration hanging on the walls around her, and used the ekphrastic method she’d been teaching to interact with the paintings.
“It’s not like you go hunting for [the poem], they’re just sitting there,” Hurlow said.
One of the poems Hurlow found hanging on the wall in a museum in Budapest comes from a painting by Karoly Ferenczy called “Boys Throwing Pebbles into the River.” Hurlow based her favorite poem in her book off the painting, entitling it, “Three Boys Throwing Pebbles.” In the poem, Hurlow imagines one of the boys coming back to the river as the painter of the picture.
“I made that up,” Hurlow said of the idea. “In ekphrastic poetry, you get to make up stuff.”
The idea for “Brushstrokes on Water” wasn’t the first time Hurlow was inspired by students; in fact, looking back at her other five books of poetry, Hurlow could cite students and the classes she was teaching as inspiration for most books she’s had published.
“After I’ve done a prompt with my own students, I’m like, ‘I got this in my head, I’m going to try it,’” Hurlow said. “Students have inspired me forever…I’m kind of a lazy writer.”
Looking back, Hurlow credits a student for inspiring her to take a risk in publishing her poetry. One student, after discussing the creative process between art and writing, suggested publishing in Poetry Magazine, a magazine Hurlow had dubbed outside of her abilities.
“I should never put a ceiling on anything for a student.” Hurlow said, reflecting on the conversation with the student. The conversation led Hurlow to submit some of her work to the magazine. It got published, which led to other opportunities. The story is proof that taking inspiration from students has helped lead Hurlow to where she is in her career today.
“In all kinds of ways, students have inspired me,” Hurlow said.
Though originally planned to be released in October, due to a publishing issue, Hurlow’s book will be available in November.