“I talk like a lady who knows what she wants,” reads the first line of Terese Svoboda’s story Trailer Girl. But Svoboda, a visiting creative writing professor at UM, talks like a lady who has already done most everything one could ever want to do.
Svoboda has lived in Africa, Polynesia and New York City, and she plans to spend January in England, summer in Russia, and fall in Italy.
“How soon one forgets one’s responsibilities,” Svoboda said while trying to remember her long list of obligations this year.
Yet the UM administration managed to convince her to teach for a year in Miami.
Originally from Nebraska, Svoboda did her undergraduate work at several schools and received an MFA from Columbia University.
She currently lives in New York’s Chinatown with her husband, an inventor, and her two sons, one of whom is away at college in Colorado.
Svoboda says she’s making great personal sacrifices by commuting between Miami and New York each week.
“I’m here in Miami Monday through Thursday – I’m home with my husband and my 12-year-old on the weekends,” Svoboda said.
This semester Svoboda teaches ENG 406, an advanced poetry class that focuses on the work of imprisoned poets throughout the world, many of whom have been jailed for political reasons.
“Students learn the techniques of the imprisoned poets, some of whom are the best writers around,” Svoboda said.
In addition to studying the poets’ works, students are required to write a letter to diplomats in support of writers.
Svoboda, a member of the PEN Freedom To Write Committee, was inspired to teach a class on imprisoned poets after spending much time outside the United States, including a year in the Sudan where she worked in visual anthropology, making documentary films and translating songs of the Nuer people.
“Living in Africa and Polynesia, I saw that many governments are not welcoming to writers. They recognize that writers have a significant power to change things, and they want to limit that power,” Svoboda said. “I was moved to add the imprisoned poets component to my course after Castro imprisoned so many journalists last spring, including the poet/journalist Raul Rivero.”
“To have such a violation of freedom of the press right at UM’s doorstep!” Svoboda said.
Svoboda says she’s enjoying her time in Miami thus far.
“Everyone has been helpful and excited to work,” she said.
Svoboda has been writer-in-residence at several colleges, including Sarah Lawrence College and the New School in New York.
“The students at every campus I’ve taught at are different, and Miami is no exception – and the climate here is wonderful,” Svoboda said.
Svoboda has published four books of poetry and four books of fiction, including one translation from the African language Nuer. Her most recent book is a book of poetry called Treason .
Her poems and stories have appeared in such prestigious publications as The New Yorker, Vogue and The Wall Street Journal.
She has also written the libretto for an opera which premiers in the fall and has been involved in the creation of several documentary films.
Although Svoboda enjoys teaching and likes Miami, she is ready to go home to New York for a while before embarking on her next journey.
Her advice to students:
“It is not always the A student who achieves; it’s the one who persists in doing the hard things,” Svoboda said.
Excerpts of Svoboda’s work and more information on her can be found at http://mockingbird.creighton.edu/NCW/svoboda.htm.
Jaclyn Lisenby can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.