Rachel Simon, '99, Poet and Teacher

simon_photo"In one of my final workshops at Colby Ira Sadoff said that the people who were the best writers in that class would not be the people who went on to publish books of poetry," says Rachel Simon. "Eleven years later it is true.  The two best writers from that class are now a physician and an actor/singer.  I felt inadequate then but found my footing in the world of poetry." Her poetry classes at Colby College taught her "both how to read and write poems," "discipline and workshop skills," and provided "models of how writers live." ("Ira's cabin is amazing," Simon adds.)

 Since taking those poetry classes, Simon has written a book of poems, Theory of Orange, and last year published a chapbook, Marginal Road. She is also a part-time lecturer in Women’s Studies at the State University of New York in Purchase and teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence College and the Bedford Hills Maximum Security Women's Prison.

One of Simon’s favorite poems is “Beside the Bodies of the Broken Hearted” by Dean Young. From this poem she learned about “associative leaps” and “ways to muddle a narrative with imaginative language and have it hold its emotional impact.” Simon is often inspired to write by emotions or language. In one instance she wrote a poem inspired by an emotionally intense documentary: “The poem was really bad… but it got me  thinking about visual arts and what a film can do in terms of transporting a viewer and how to make that happen in a poem,” Simon says. Her writing process incorporates deadlines and a writing group that she meets with regularly, followed quickly by revision “while [she] remember[s] what they said.”

Simon’s favorite part of poetry is “when something comes together in language” to surprise her. For example, she once had a dream, woke up and “could only remember ‘history and eucalyptus.’ Simon was happy when those words “eventually found a home in a poem.” Unfortunately, poets often don’t receive enough advance funding to “work less and write more,” so Simon doesn’t feel she has enough time to give to her poems. Simon is currently working on a book of sports poems and “thinking about [her]ESPN-filled childhood and sports heroes from the 90s.”

by Katerina Faust, ’14, William D. Adams Presidential Scholar