Welcome new Writers’ Program instructor, and current Program Director, Charles Jensen! He is teaching a new course this Fall, The “F” Word: Innovative Poetic Forms, and sat down with us to offer some insight into creative life and his upcoming course.

What sparks your creativity?
Writing that has unique approaches to form (like Carmen Maria Machado’s short story in the form of 200+ Law and Order: SVU episode synopses), or writing that uses imagery and language in ways that shock and surprise me.

What do you rely on for those times it’s difficult to find the time, energy, motivation and/or inspiration to write?
I find having a routine/daily schedule makes writing pretty reliable, but on the days when I just don’t feel motivated, I activate the other parts of my brain by doing editing of works-in-progress, and if I’m not into that, I like to “put gas in the tank” by reading.

What’s your favorite book and/or movie?
Mark Z. Danielewski’s novel House of Leaves remains one of the most life-changing books I’ve read, and the other touchstone for me is Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, which invigorated what I think is possible for poetry to do.

What’s your favorite quote about writing?
A friend of mine asked the poet C.D. Wright about the pressure to adhere to an identity as a regional writer, and C.D. said, “Don’t sign up,” and honestly that is my approach to any question about writing or creativity that might limit me. I don’t sign up. I keep all the options open.

Who do you wish you could write like (or: Whose writing discipline do you wish you had)?
Carmen Maria Machado. I know I mentioned her above, but her book of stories just blows my mind. She blends genres seamlessly, tells compelling stories in unique and surprising forms, and—at the same time—critiques literary genres, traditions, tropes, and stereotypes. I can’t wait to read what she does next.

What excites you most about teaching for the Writers’ Program?
I love getting people excited about poetry!

What do you hope your students get from your course(s)?
Permission to do what they didn’t know they could.


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

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