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Meet the Teaching Artist: The Haunting of Grief in Poetry with Saúl Hernández

by Writing Workshops Staff

3 months ago


Meet the Teaching Artist: The Haunting of Grief in Poetry with Saúl Hernández

by Writing Workshops Staff

3 months ago


In a profound exploration of the intricate emotions and experiences surrounding grief, we are thrilled to introduce Saúl Hernández, a remarkable writer from San Antonio, TX. Raised by undocumented parents, Saúl brings a unique perspective and sensitivity to his work. His forthcoming poetry collection, How to Kill a Goat & Other Monsters, will be published by the University of Wisconsin Press in March 2024. Saúl's accolades, including the 2022 Pleiades Prufer Poetry Prize and the 2021 Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize, further emphasize his talent. Holding an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Texas at El Paso, Saúl has also been a part of prestigious workshops like MACONDO and Tin House.

His upcoming 6-Week Zoom Poetry Workshop, The Haunting of Grief, promises to be a transformative journey into the depths of human emotions. As we delve into the six weeks together, Saúl will guide participants in understanding how grief takes shape within us, how it can be processed, and how it ultimately moves us in the world.

Through the lens of poetry and with the works of renowned poets like Victoria Chang, Eduardo C. Corral, and Ocean Vuong as our companions, this course will not only help students explore their own grief but also create beauty out of it. Join us on this poignant journey as we unravel the profound and intricate tapestry of grief, delving into what remains lingering before, during, and after death, all under the expert guidance of Saúl Hernández.

Hi, Saúl. Please introduce yourself to our audience.

Hi y'all, I'm Saúl Hernández and I'm a queer poet from San Antonio, TX. I received an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Texas at El Paso. I've been interested in the power of words and writing since an early age but I didn't start to take writing seriously until much later. I believe everyone has a story to tell and that's part of the reason why I love teaching workshops so much. It brings me joy to see writers at any level feel seen on the page or understood.

What made you want to teach this specific class? Is it something you are focusing on in your own writing practice? Have you noticed a need to focus on this element of craft?

I've been surrounded by grief my whole life. Just when I think I can escape it, grief finds a way to pull me back. My debut poetry collection, How to Kill a Goat & Other Monsters, deals with this theme (among others) of grief and haunting. I created this workshop two years ago and each time I find a new way to enhance it. As a society we tend to avoid dealing with grief because no one wants to be seen as vulnerable or weak and (for me) that's why grief manifest in dreams, anxiety, depression, or physical illness. I hope whoever takes this workshop leaves knowing grief is another form of love that is unsaid.

Give us a breakdown of how the course is going to go. What can the students expect? What is your favorite part about this class you've dreamed up?

Through this course, we will read craft talks, listen to podcast/interviews, read poems, and study forms/techniques for the first three weeks. Each week you will have a writing prompt to generate work. After the three weeks, we will do workshops for the remainder of the three weeks. I will also cover how to submit your work to journals to those who are not familiar with the process.

What was your first literary crush?

My first literary crush is Mary Pope Osborne. Her Magic Tree House Series saved my life in elementary school. As an ex Jehovah Witness, I was not allowed to participate in many activities so I was sent to library. There I discovered magic within the Magic Tree House Series. That's how I survived the third grade. I may not have had a birthday or holiday celebration but I had magic.

What are you currently reading?

I'm currently reading different books for each genre. In fiction, I just started A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. In non-fiction, I'm reading Brown Neon: Essays by Raquel Gutiérrez. In poetry, I'm always reading more than one book at once. To name a few, The Symmetry of Fish by Su Cho, Portrait of Us Burning by Sebastián H. Páramo, False Offering by Rita Mookerjee, and Black Pastoral by Ariana Benson.

How do you choose what you're working on? When do you know it is the next thing you want to write all the way to THE END?

I'm also writing different projects at this time and I choose based on what is calling me the most. Sometimes I wake up hearing "voices" for a certain project or piece and that is what I'll dedicate my week to. Other times I'll make sure to block a certain time frame from my day or week and I'll use that time for research or writing. It honestly depends on what is burning the most inside me. If I'm having difficulty choosing, I'll go for a walk and listen to a podcast or interview and afterwards I'll have some clarity.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in grief and the unsaid. In our life we are surrounded by moments that haunt us and I use those moments filled with tension and I go into the realm of the unsaid. If I had to courage to speak in those moments, what would I have said? I also gather inspiration from my dreams. I use surrealism in my writing and conjure dream like moments in my work as well.

What is the best piece of writing wisdom you've received that you can pass along to our readers? How did it impact your work? Why has this advice stuck with you?

In graduate school, my professor, Sasha Pimentel, always said, "Put your head down and write." What she means is straightforward, if you have the passion for writing and you write and write, one day you'll pick up your head and realize of all you have created, shared, etc. That advice is one of the reasons I haven't given up on writing and learning about craft. I pass that same message to all.

What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?

These two book recommendations aren't craft books but are great books to study how the authors created form, voice, or used techniques. Diana Khoi Nguyen's poetry collection Ghost of is one I continuously go to for form, techniques, and saying the unsaid. Patricia Smith's poetry collection Blood Dazzler is one I go to for voice, witnessing, imagery, and flow. I've also been going back to K. Iver's interview on Mentor & Muse for lessons on craft decisions.

What’s your teaching vibe?

My teaching vibe is very much community vibe. We are all here to learn from each other (even me). I keep an open mind and I do like to stay in touch to see how each poet grows.

Learn more about working with Saúl Hernández:

You can learn more about Saúl's upcoming class, The Haunting of Grief 6-Week Zoom Poetry Workshop, and sign up if interested.

Instructor Saúl Hernández is a queer writer from San Antonio, TX, who was raised by undocumented parents. Saúl’s first poetry collection, How to Kill a Goat & Other Monsters, is forthcoming from the University of Wisconsin Press (March 2024). He has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Texas at El Paso and is the winner of the 2022 Pleiades Prufer Poetry Prize (judged by Joy Priest) and the 2021 Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize (judged by Victoria Chang). He's participated in MACONDO & Tin House Workshops.

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