Christopher Howell’s eighth collection of poems, Light’s Ladder, won the Washington State Book Award in 2005. His poems, essays, and translations have also appeared in a number of anthologies and journals, including Antioch Review, Colorado Review, Crazy Horse, Denver Quarterly, Field, Gettysburg Review, Harper’s, Hudson Review, Iowa Review, Northwest Review, Poetry Northwest,Southern Review and Volt. He has been recipient of three Pushcart Prizes and two National Endowment fellowships, as well as a number of other awards.
I teach literature from the writer's point of view; that is, I am interested in whether or not something works and how it works (what is the pattern of decision?). What it means is a function of these technical properties acting upon the reader, rather than of the author's intent. Questions pertaining to semiotics, historicism, and the like, while entertaining, are largely irrelevant to the business of writing and therefore do not play a significant roll in my examination of literature. In my teaching of poetry writing, I concentrate on tone, economy, and direct value—by which I mean result: technical dexterity and range are useless to the poet unless her/his poem brings about change in the reader, a sort of transport from one state of being, or experience, to another. This is what good poems do and what, during workshop, we seek to promote.
I am entering my eleventh year at Eastern. I taught previously at Colorado State University, Oregon State University, Willamette University, Whitman College, Emporia State University, and several others. My EWU experience has been different. Here, since the writing program is nearly autonomous, the content of the writing courses is determined solely by the faculty's sense of what is useful and necessary, not by any predispositions of the English department, or anybody else. Here the writing program's students are not necessarily from local or even regional backgrounds: they come from everywhere, giving the program an annually renewing liveliness and perspective. Here the faculty not only get along but admire and respect one another as artists, as people, and as friends. And, best of all, here, year after year, the program seems to attract students who are not only talented, but kind, generous, decent, and supportive of each other. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with them, and I plan to keep doing it.