A Poetic Diva with Southern Charm
Since 2004, Assistant Professor of English Adrian Blevins has brought a love of learning, heart-felt advice, and Southern charm to the College, and her impact on the Hill shows no signs of stopping.
Despite the jarring difference in climate, the Virginia native has made a home in Maine. She praises the arts of teaching and writing, and offers pertinent advice for young people to follow. Blevins eagerly discussed her love for the student body, saying, “The most amazing thing about Colby is the students, although most of them are from the North and don’t get my Southern sense of humor.”
Blevins frequently jokes in her poetry classes, creating a welcoming, if somewhat disarming atmosphere for students to further their knowledge of creative writing. Her classes encourage students to find and embolden their own voices. Blevins’ attitude makes her classes extremely rewarding and attracts students with varying academic interests.
Blevins said that despite her love for teaching, she wishes she “had time to drive around and discover all the cool things to see in Maine. I want more time to explore, but I never get the time because my nose is always in a book.” On one adventure in Maine, she found a bookstore in Stonington that had the “the most amazing collection of poetry. In the South, you’ll often come across the “Collected Poems of Suzanne Somers,” which is a lot like finding the “Collected Poems of Britney Spears,” she said.
Blevins completed her undergraduate studies at Virginia Intermont College.
“You could get a degree in horses, and bring your horse to class. It was the South. I was not a horse person, but I guess some girls couldn’t live without their horses,” she said.
Deciding to stray from the horse-track, Blevins attended Hollins University for post-graduate studies in fiction. She soon discovered that she hated writing short stories, and tried poetry instead. Blevins spent the next 10 years after leaving Hollins writing poetry. After this creative hiatus, she attended Warren Wilson’s Masters of Fine Arts program to study poetry.
When Blevins discovered her love for teaching, she came to Colby in 2004. Now a program director of the creative writing department, she teaches two classes a semester and allots much of her time to the department, organizing the Visiting Writer’s Series as well as many other academic opportunities. This year’s visiting writers have been a great success, most notably the poet and author William Gay’s reading.
“The two most difficult things I’ve done in my life are delivering a twelve pound baby in my house, and bringing William Gay to Colby,” she said wryly. Gay’s phone battery frequently dies, he does not fly and he does not travel alone. It took Blevins two years of Southern sweet-talking to bring him to the Hill. Finally, Gay found a friend to drive him from Hohenwald, TN (near Alabama) to Waterville, ME. When praising Gay, Blevins noted, “[He] has no agent, doesn’t network, and read books for forty years –he’s the real thing. The literary world can be filled with the pressure to promote oneself and succumb to the need to sell. It’s so refreshing that he just writes books to write books.”
Blevins also discussed the poet C.K. Williams and his similar ability to counter the recent media-infused nature of the literary world.
“His poetry can break through the crappy language that has become so institutionalized in our society,” Blevins said. She explained this as the language of “buying and selling” and the fact that today we cannot escape commercials and advertisements. She said that poets like C.K. Williams can break through this language and give us permission and an obligation to speak a kind of truth.
This elucidates what Blevins enjoys most about poetry. “I think poems celebrate the individual in the most intimate forms, and help us cope with our grief and celebrate our joys in a way that makes these emotions communal. In this way, poetry celebrates the individual experience rather than the collective experience,” she said.
Blevins encourages Colby students to find quiet and peace amidst their stressful schedules.
“If you’re trying to sell yourself, you don’t have time to learn what makes characters come alive. The kinds of minds we develop are more important than the rat race. Young people need to pay attention to the world we live in. The best gift to young writers is time to look around.”