Diane Lockward

                                 Diane Lockward

Website: www.dianelockward.com 

Major at EC: English

Tell us a little about your career field.

I was a high school English teacher for 25 years. I taught in four different schools during those years, including one year at the high school I'd graduated from. During the last 12 years of my teaching career, I discovered the joy of writing poetry. As I became more proficient and more successful at getting my work published, I began to feel that I wanted to spend my time living as a writer, so I took an early retirement. I now work part-time as a poet in the schools. That leaves me lots of time to write and do other writing-related activities. For example, I designed and maintain my own website

(http://www.dianelockward.com) and for the past 3 years have done a poetry blog, Blogalicious

(www.dianelockward.blogspot.com). A year ago I began a monthly Poetry Newsletter that goes out to more than 350 subscribers.

What are the challenges of a poetry career?

If I were a young poet, I would say the difficulty of earning a living as a poet is a great challenge. Every poet I know has to have other employment in order to pay the bills. They then have the challenge of finding the time to write. Because I had another career first and now a pension, I do not have to worry about earning a living from poetry. And I have the privilege of time now. There is the challenge, especially early on, of finding journals willing to publish your work. Then there's the challenge of finding a publisher for the first book. I sent out my first poetry manuscript for about six years before finding a publisher. Of course, the manuscript underwent many changes during those years. My biggest challenge these days is finding new topics for new poems. I don't want to repeat myself or continue to do what I already know how to do. No matter how long you've been doing this, you want to keep growing.

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How did your academic life prepare you for graduate school or your career?

I was a very average student at Elmira. Full of doubt about my own brain. Did i have one? Although I liked to write, I never wrote a single poem in either high school or college. I do, however, remember studying some poetry. I did not go to graduate school for my master's degree until eleven years after I graduated. By that time I was married and had three children. For some unknown reason, I decided to apply to graduate school. Certainly nothing in my academic background suggested that I ought to pursue that course. Perhaps I just wanted something to do that was more than taking care of children. In any case, I got in and went to Montclair State University. What a good decision. I found that I really did have a brain. During that second chance I was a very good student. Although I was academically undistinguished at Elmira, I think that my years there did provide me with a good base for later study. However, it wasn't until more than a dozen years after graduate school that I began to write poetry.

What have been the highlights of your life and career?

Getting that first book published. Winning a Poetry Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Having my work read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer's Almanac.

What hobbies, activities, community service, foreign travel, etc. are you or have you been involved in? Please include any awards you may have received.

I believe strongly that poets have an obligation to support the poetry community. My effort has been to widen the audience for poetry. Nine years ago I organized an event called "Poetry Festival: A Celebration of Literary Journals" and have been running it each May at my local library. A dozen journals are there with their editors. Poetry readings go on throughout the event, and we get more than 200 people to come. Three years ago I began an event called "Girl Talk: A Reading in Celebration of Women's History Month." I invite at least two dozen women poets to come to the library and read one poem on a topic related to the lives of women. We fill up the room and it's a very exciting day, full of poetry and good sisterhood.

What are your fondest memories of your days at Elmira College?

The friendships. I had wonderful friends there, though have sadly not kept touch. I remember singing in Cowles Hall, Mountain Day at Barb Beers' house and the array of pies her mother would make for the dozen or so girls who arrived by wagon, dinners at Moretti's, and hanging out at a variety of dens of iniquity.

Were you involved in any clubs, organizations, teams or activities?

No, never joined any clubs. Still avoid them. But I participated in the group sings, a skit here and there, and even a campus protest march!

Which class, club, activity, individual, organization or team do you believe best prepared you for your career?

Of course, all of the English classes, perhaps most especially the Creative Writing course I took with Dr. Marsden, not because I was very good in it but because it gave me a model for listening and critiquing. I have always kept in my head the words Dr. Marsden once said to me: "You're smarter than you think you are."

Did you take advantage of Elmira College’s Term III or Junior Year Abroad travel opportunities? If so, how did that experience affect you?

No. Term III didn't even exist then. Neither did male students.

What advice would you give students about preparing for graduate school or careers?

For me the best thing was waiting for a number of years before I went to graduate school. Having taught high school English and started a family gave me the maturity to be a better student. I had a better idea of what I wanted to get out of my classes and a better work ethic. So if you're not burning to do it right now, don't. You really can do it later. I'd also say that it's possible to reinvent yourself. Pursue your dreams vigorously, but don't be afraid to have a new dream. I was 40-something before I wrote my first poem. It's never too late for a new dream.

Do you have a favorite quote that embodies your beliefs or values?

"Go forth boldly."


© 2011 Elmira College


What are the advantages and disadvantages of your career field?

The biggest advantage is the excitement of creating something. Nothing else gives me such satisfaction. When I have a new poem underway and I like where it's going, I feel all electric inside. I suppose that the opposite is a major disadvantage, that is, those inevitable periods when nothing is happening and you wonder if you've written your last good poem. Really, the apprenticeship never ends.

If someone wanted to get into your career field, what advice would you have for them?

Read a ton of poetry, especially contemporary poetry. Learn the craft however you can. Take courses, read books on craft, imitate poems you admire. Learn their strategies. Be patient. Be persistent. Be supportive of other poets. Buy their books if you can. Go to readings. Get up and read at Open Mics. Never send your work out too soon. Let it sit. Then revise, revise, revise.