December 10, 2016 at 1:26 pm

Graduate Student Named among Best New Poets of 2016

Christine Adams, doctoral student in creative writing, has been named in Best New Poets 2016

Christine Adams, doctoral student in creative writing, has been named in Best New Poets 2016

by Kristin M. Distel

Christine Adams’ poem, “The Root Systems of Orchids,” has been selected by poet Mary Szybist to appear in Best New Poets 2016, an annual anthology of 50 poems from emerging writers.

Adams is a second-year doctoral student and teaching assistant in Ohio University’s English Department, where she is studying creative writing.

Each year, a guest editor selects 50 poems from nominations made by literary magazines and writing programs, in addition to receiving submissions via an open internet competition. Best New Poets is a highly selective contest; its editors sift through hundreds of poetry submissions from new and aspiring writers.

‘I Wanted to Flip that Script’

“The Root Systems of Orchids,” Adams explains, features “a woman speaker reflecting on her failed relationships. She is engaging in this kind of magical thinking in which she believes that if she can learn to care for orchids, she’ll be able to have the skills to foster a successful relationship.”

In part, Adams was prompted to write the poem in response to clichéd portrayals of women in literature and popular culture.

“One of the reasons I wrote it is because women are often rendered in naturalistic terms. I wanted to flip that script and make the man the flower and the woman the gardener. The poem also grew out of my own frustration and a real inability to care for an orchid,” Adams says.

Adams’s Influences and Judge Mary Szybist

Adams, who has long been an admirer of Mary Szybist’s work, was thrilled to learn that Szybist would judge this year’s Best New Poets competition. Adams sees Szybist as having had a distinct influence on her own creative work.

“When I applied to OHIO’s doctoral program, I mentioned her as an influential poet in my statement of purpose, and I gave a presentation on Szybist last semester in Professor Jill Rosser’s poetry workshop. I was also able to meet her and hear her read some of her poems. I definitely respect her work.”

Adams also counts Mary Ann Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, Emily Dickinson, and undergraduate mentor Claudia Emerson among her influences.

“I always hear Claudia’s voice and poems in my head as I’m writing,” Adams says.

Refining her Style at OHIO

Adams has found that her studies at OHIO have informed and improved her poetry overall. “I’ve been inspired by fellow poets in the English Department to delve a bit more into the political and cultural touchstones that have cropped up in the past year. I used to be somewhat afraid to wade into that territory, and now I see how people are doing that successfully. That’s been motivating.”

In addition to poetry workshops, she also credits Professor Amritjit Singh’s Twentieth-Century American Literature seminar as informing the way she thinks about writing and the body.

“I’ve always been very interested in literary descriptions of female bodies and how they fit into the world, but I think having the opportunity to study Toni Morrison has shaped the way I’m starting to think about that in terms of the manuscript I’m working on.”

Bringing Poetry into the Writing Classroom

Adams, who currently teaches Writing and Rhetoric I at OHIO, also manages to bring poetry into her composition classroom. “I incorporate poetry during the class’s research unit. The students learn how to research cultural issues that produce poetry. This not only teaches them to take advantage of our resources here at OHIO but also teaches them how writers apply research in the ‘real world.’”

Adams’s students have conducted research on the murder of Emmett Till while also studying Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem, “A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi. Meanwhile, a Mississippi Mother Burns Bacon.” “We discuss how Brooks took a real-life event and dramatized it in her poem. This serves as a vehicle for discussing race, gender, motherhood, and other important issues.”

Readers can find Adams’s work in Ploughshares Online and Best New Poets 2014. She is also a reader for New Ohio Review, one of OHIO’s literary magazines.

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