Friday, August 14, 2015

Professor Deborah Fleming Discusses Research and Creative Activity

By Hilary Donatini
Professor Deborah Fleming agreed to answer some questions about her active program of research and creative activity here at AU.

Q: In addition to teaching and service, you maintain an active writing and research program. Could you discuss some of your recent presentations and publications?
A: Recent presentations include "W. B. Yeats and Ecocriticism" at two conferences and fiction readings in Columbus and Mansfield.

Q: Describe your works in progress. 
A: My current work in progress is my third poetry collection.  My first collection, "Morning, Winter Solstice," was influenced by James Wright and focused on nature poetry of two local bioregions; my second, primarily influenced by W. B. Yeats, treats the themes of love, art, death, and war and uses many landscapes.  About half the poems are formalist.  

The third, influenced by Robinson Jeffers, uses landscapes as far apart as Alaska and Nepal and explores the issue of how the greatest ecological disaster in history--climate change--is related to our myth-making.  I am also working on my third novel about three rural women from different generations.

Q: What do you value most about writing?
A: What I most value about writing is the chance to use language to and metaphor to explore ideas.  

Q: How does your research and creative activity complement your work in the classroom?
A: Research and creative activity are not separate from the classroom because I teach works by the writers who are the subjects of my research; when I teach creative writing I can draw on my own experience to help students with the challenges of writing and revision.

Q: You have taught at Ashland for over twenty years. How has your research and creative activity developed over the course of your career? 
A: I had one scholarly book in press when I came here and have finished the second as well as scholarly essays and two edited collections.  I still have one article on Yeats that I want to finish.  My primary interest was always Yeats.  

I always wrote poetry but in the last twenty years I have written more of it and begun to write fiction and nonfiction seriously.  Recently I also wrote a screenplay.  Scholarly work inspires and enhances the creative work and is by far the most difficult type of writing I do because of the time research requires and the tremendous amount of organization.  

Among the creative genre, fiction is the hardest because of the difficulty of avoiding sentimentality and cliche. Although no writing is easy, I find poetry presents fewer challenges because I have been writing poetry so many more years.  Not every writer would have the same experience.