Indulging in Failure with New Writing Professor Sasha West

Sarah Lopez

Feb. 10 marked the last of The Martia Kinsey Writing Series and featured Sasha West, author of “Failure and I Bury the Body” in the Carter Auditorium. The 2012 National Poetry Series winner is in her second semester as Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at St. Edward’s. Her classes include a poetry workshop and a non-fiction workshop.

In “Failure and I Bury the Body”, failure is the main character that accompanies the narrator on a road trip in the Southwest. For West, not much failure has followed her since writing her first book of poems. Yet she has gained an affinity for the concept, viewing it as “vulnerable and necessary to art.”

The reading began with West leaving her comfort zone, sharing poems from an unpublished project before reading from Failure. After reading from both projects, the floor was open for questions to her audience

“How does your experience writing in different genres and mediums have an effect on your poetry?” asked Moriah McCracken, associate professor of writing & rhetoric at St. Edward’s.

As the former head of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, West taught graduate students how to write papers for the United Nations, and Op-Ed pieces for climate change.

“How to translate facts from one audience to another is always on my mind,” West said.

In her transition from UT to St. Edward’s, West has maintained her concern for both what it is to be human and the conditions in which we live in. Her new project is focused on climate change.

“This is a strange day for February,” West said, “and yet it’s beautiful.”

During the Q&A, one thing West kept coming back to was an emphasis on revision and how it can either reinforce a theme or completely reshape it. She emphasized the importance of knowing when a story is done without killing it or over-polishing. West also touched on the post-production aspect and how important contests are in the process getting a book of poetry published.

Part reading and part lecture, the event drew a crowd that filled the auditorium almost entirely. West’s collection can be purchased at BookWoman in Austin.