Benjamin Vogt has a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and an M.F.A. from The Ohio State University. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, while poems and creative nonfiction have recently appeared in American Life in Poetry, Crab Orchard Review, Diagram, Hayden's Ferry Review, ISLE, Sou'wester, and Subtropics. Benjamin has two poetry chapbooks, Indelible Marks (Pudding House) and Without Such Absence (Finishing Line Press). He's currently a lecturer at the Universtiy of Nebraska-Lincoln.
I still remember sitting in on a 300 level poetry workshop my freshman year with Mike Carson. I was an ambitious little twirp, and Mike asked me if I thought I might be in the class too soon. I'm sure I was. But he let me stay in, and that helped me stretch myself and get rid of some bad tendencies I had already developed at age 19. I don't know if he shrugged his shoulders or took a leap of faith with me, but I'm thankful I was allowed to be in over my head.
Going to Harlaxton blew me wide open as a person. The emotional ride that experience provided--the person that time unleashed--helped me have faith in my own abilities as a writer. I knew that if I put myself into something so terrifying, as fully as I could, I'd get that effort reflected back. That meant traveling, making friends with strangers, learning to drink beer, etc. A writer has to be bold, fearless, confident even if they aren't. Failure is part of the process, and it can be a good part of it. I have regrets like anyone, but for writers you can't have any, especially in that first draft. Just keep writing. Go go go.
My time as an editor on The Evansville Review and Senior Literary Journal was wonderful, too. Loved the late nights battling for slush manuscripts, doped up on coffee and pop. Again, these things wouldn't have been possible without supportive teachers who allowed me to mess up, fail, trip, and who also didn't give up on me. I think everyone exhibited these qualities as teachers.
I was THRILLED when a big name writer came in. I know that costs money, but it is so very helpful to hear from published authors, to talk to them especially in class or a smaller setting when you're young and moderately impressionable. That helped me think more professionally about writing.