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Master tips offered for creative writing and Spanish poetry

The most recent Winter with the Writers visiting authors elaborated on the craft of writing and the challenges of creating poetry in a different language.

Rollins welcomed renowned writers Garth Greenwell and Luis Muñoz on Feb. 15. Each writer gave separate craft talks followed by a joint reading, interview, and book signing.

During Greenwell’s craft talk, six Winter with the Writers interns had a chance to work with him on their pieces of short fiction. Through his critiques, Greenwell enlisted insight on the narration and setting and their roles in creative fiction.

He focused on how these elements come together to create an effective scene and how they can change the amount of pressure or drama within a scene. He emphasized that these decisions are crucial to a successful piece of fiction.

Garth Greenwell is the author of What Belongs to You and a graduate from the Iowa Creative Writing Workshop, the most prestigious creative writing program in the nation.

His book won the British Book Award for Debut of the Year, was longlisted for the National Book Award, and was a finalist for six other awards.

The other guest, Luis Muñoz, currently teaches in the MFA Spanish Creative Writing program at the University of Iowa. He is a well-renowned Spanish poet and the author of five poetry collections.

His most recent collections include Querido Silencio (Dear Silence), Limpiar Pescado: Poseía reunida (Cleaning Fish: Collected Poetry), and a bilingual edition of his poetry From Behind What Landscape: New and Selected Poems.

Muñoz has received several prizes for his work, including the Spanish awards  Generació del 27 and Ojo Crítico.

With Muñoz, interns asked specific questions about his writing process. For example, questions about his thoughts, intentions, and influences behind the poems of From Behind What Landscape. He said that he most frequently examines  poetry as a craft. He compares his process of creation to the processes of other craftsmen such as doctors, fishermen, and welders.

It is this idea of poetry as a craft that inspired him to name one of his poetry collections Limpiar Pescado (Cleaning Fish). He saw his writing process as a “mixture of craft and intuition,” similar to the act of cleaning a fish.

Muñoz also discussed the aspects of writing poetry that are unique to the Spanish language. For instance, the long syntax of the language, the musical qualities of it created by writing in eight or eleven syllable lines, and the circular nature that he believes Spanish poetry possesses.

Greenwell and Muñoz also conducted a joint reading where they alternated reading their own works. Both writers conducted a magnificent and powerful reading, artfully blending together the topics of their respective works in a harmonious fashion. For poems that Muñoz  read in Spanish, Greenwell read the English translation after them.

In the following interview session, each author presented their views on their own writing and literature as a whole, while also answering questions ranging in topic from choices that each author makes in their own writing to why such well-travelled individuals would settle in rural Iowa.

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