Welcome new Writers’ Program instructor, Miguel Murphy! Miguel is teaching a new course this fall, Art as Investigation, and sat down with us to offer some insight into creative life and his upcoming course.

Miguel Murphy

1) What sparks your creativity?
Isn’t having to be born enough? There’s an unforgiving party on the abyss, and we’ve got it in our periphery. Claude-Lévi Strauss has written that the only thing that makes any one life unique in all of human history is the art we leave behind. Rebellion is our art, and our struggle.

2) What do you rely on for those times it’s difficult to find the time, energy, motivation and/or inspiration to write?
Those times are most times. It’s always difficult to find time, energy, and motivation. Always. The answer is never inspiration, but discipline. The slow habit of it. Particularly at the pace of our digital era, in which the swipe for the new is our modus operandi. Art, literature—they ask us to stop and listen and suffer through not knowing an answer. You have to show up for solitude, sit alone quietly at the same time every day to prepare yourself for things to work.

Caché poster

3) What’s your favorite book and/or movie?
Any film by Tarkovsky—he’s a visionary—the despair of a matchflame, the weird pathos of a prisoner’s task. Or Michael Haneke! Caché. That mesmerizing, closing external shot of the public stairs and what it hides, the film’s most important scene, the violent abandonment. The Piano Teacher. The musical desperation of being a person.
Once in a therapy session, my shrink was trying to calm me down and asked me what my happiest place was, and I thought immediately of Judie Dench in the Royal Shakespeare’s production of Macbeth in which she makes an unscripted but full-throated devastation of a wail during Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene: chilling, cathartic, sublime. I guess my favorite books accomplish something like that. . .

4)  What’s your favorite quote about writing?
Faulkner once said that writing a novel is like building a chicken coop in a hurricane.

5)  Who do you wish you could write like (or: Whose writing discipline do you wish you had)?
Mandelstam once wrote: I am secretly envious of everyone, also secretly enamored. At some point, you realize that you can only write like yourself. Admiration is a kind of lash, the sting keeps you going.

6) What excites you most about teaching for the Writers’ Program?
It’s the opportunity to investigate this ancient relationship between art and great writing! My special topics course is a fulfillment of a longstanding excitement I have about how poets and essayists and novelists have used individual works of art (paintings, sculpture, photography, collage) as subject matter. My mother is a painter, and I’ve often been curious about her process and the effect a great painting has. As a writer, there’s a mystery about that dialogue. What do we go to art for, essentially?

A Book Called Rats

I’m exceedingly excited to look at works of art with a classroom full of writers and discuss literature that finds its way around a non-spoken form.

7) What do you hope your students get from your course(s)?
I hope students leave my courses invigorated about great literature and great art and that our conversations will be the basis for a longer hunger for it in their own work and lives.

Miguel Murphy is the author of two collections of poetry, Detainee and A Book Called Rats, winner of the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry. His poetry and reviews appear in numerous publications including The New England Review, Ploughshares, Los Angeles Review, and Rain Taxi.

Thank you to Miguel for taking time to share with us. Look for more instructor interviews coming soon!

Bree is the Assistant to the Director and Social Media Coordinator. You can email her at btodish@uclaextension.edu.

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