Poet Resides at PA

Theodore Deppe, the new writer-in-residence at Phillips Academy is both a poet and a novelist. He has published three volucmes of poetry, including the most recent Cape Clear: New and Selected Poems, and has recently completed a novel. Deppe brings a wealth of experience as a teacher and a writer to his post. He has spent the past three years writing and teaching in Ireland. Deppe will be teaching creative fiection and poetry electives for seniors. Phillipian: How has your experience living in Ireland for the past three years shaped your writing? Theodore Deppe: Living in Ireland really gave me the chance to write full time. Before that, I had two part time jobs working as a teacher and a full time job as a nurse. Basically I had three jobs and I was writing in the car on the way to work, which is not advisable. I was working on a novel and finishing a book of poems. I knew I had to take a “sabbatical,” so I decided to quit the job as a nurse and take a year to write. We sold our house in Florence, Mass. and moved to Ireland for a year, which became three. I finished the novel and the book of poems. It was also a career move for my wife, Annie Deppe, who finished her first book of poems, Sitting in the Sky. Ireland was a great place to write. When you are living on an island with 120 other people there is not much to do besides taking walks along the shore and looking for whales. Often it was rainy, and it was wonderful to stay inside and write. Phillipian: Are there any Irish writers who have particularly influenced or inspired you? TD: I went to Ireland first when I was nineteen. I went to Ireland for the writers. I loved James Joyce, Yeats, and Frank O’Connor. I spent a half a year walking around the island, a thousand miles. Now I would have to add Seamus Heaney, Eamon Grennan, and Paula Meehan. There are so many… Phillipian: How did you come to PA? TD: I had known a couple of the past Writers-in-Residence. They just loved it here and felt that it was one of their best jobs, ever. I always thought that it would be a great place to be. I didn’t plan on leaving Ireland; this was the only job I applied to in the States. We miss Ireland, but we have been able to touch base with the U.S.- that’s important. Phillipian: How do you see the relationship between your work as a novelist and a poet? TD: I’ve published poetry. I actually finished the last page of a revision of a novel before I left Ireland. I still need to find an agent and a publisher for it. In general, my poems have a pretty strong narrative element, as well as lyric elements. Usually when I start a novel, the people and situations compress into a poem. The novel I just finished, however, started with two characters and grew into too many characters for a poem. I had to keep writing to find out where they would go. A novel is more of a form for extroverts- people who understand the ways in which people connect and interact. As an introvert, I focus on one or two people in more intense situations and moments of thought in my poems. The novel was really a chance for me to explore a larger world. Phillipian: How does it feel to follow the past Writer-in-Residence Sabina Murray, winner of the PEN/Faulkner award for her novel The Caprices? TD: Sabina is on fire. I loved meeting her last year and sitting in on her classes. She had so much energy, which she shared with her students. I feel like this is a good place to start, following her energy. I also plan to follow her future work, especially now that she is working on a screenplay with Terence Malick, who wrote and directed “Days of Heaven,” one of my favorite movies. Phillipian: Do you have any particular goals for this year? TD: I am working on finishing a new book of poems. If I start another novel, it will be sometime in the future. As a teacher I am teaching a creative fiction course, which is a great pleasure. I have taught poetry up through the university level, but I have never taught fiction. It is exciting and I have all the enthusiasm of just starting something new. I am learning everyday with this class.