We are honored to have poet Yesenia Montilla joining our team of writing instructors this fall. Yesenia is teaching Poetry & the Muse, 7 to 9 p.m. ET, for six weeks on Thursdays, starting November 10.
Yesenia’s poetry has appeared in the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, as well as the literary journals The Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Best of American Poets (2021, 2022) & others. Her first collection, The Pink Box, was Longlisted for a PEN award in 2016. Her second collection, Muse Found in a Colonized Body, was recently published by Four Way Books.
We “sat down” with Yesenia to learn more about why she teaches poetry and what we can expect in her Poetry & the Muse class.
PWN: Welcome to the Project Write Now family! We feel so lucky to have such an accomplished poet on our team. Can you tell us a little about your background with poetry?
Yesenia: I came to poetry pretty late in life by most timelines. I didn’t write my first poem until my 30s. As an adult student completing her Bachelors of Arts degree, I was really interested in creative writing but more novels than poetry. As a kid poetry was never accessible to me and so it was a huge surprise when I enrolled in a class with Tina Chang and was in awe of all poetry is and what it can do. I realized that one sheet of paper could hold the whole world; I was smitten at that moment and never looked back.
PWN: Why are you drawn to teach poetry?
Yesenia: Poetry allows us to interrogate ourselves and the world, deepen our relationship to the big things like love and death, but also the small things like flowers and insects. There are no boundaries in poetry and each time I write a poem, I feel I am getting closer and closer to my true self.
PWN: We are intrigued by the idea of “invoking the muse.” Can you tell us what we can expect from your Poetry & the Muse class?
Yesenia: Even though it’s for all levels of writers, I want folks to know that it will be a lot of writing. Fun writing and writing that hopefully surprises the participants. Also reading, we are going to look at some of my fave poems, poems that for me are “Muses,” and we can create our own work using prompts directly from the work of others. I want folks to come away from the class feeling like they worked out that writing muscle and proud of what they were able to create, how they were able to push themselves, and most importantly with many muses to pull from long after the class is done.
PWN: Who can take your class? Do you need poetry experience?
Yesenia: Anyone who has a pen and notebook can take my class. I want everyone to know it is going to be very inclusive and warm. Teaching through tenderness is really important to me, so no matter your experience as a writer, there is always a place for you in my classes.
PWN: What advice would you give to a writer who may be intimidated by poetry?
Yesenia: I also was intimidated by poetry and so I feel like I can connect with those writers by talking about my experience of how this fiction writer became a poet. Poetry can seem otherworldly at first, hard to understand, but like writing, reading too is a muscle and hopefully the poems I choose for these next six weeks woo some folks into the poetry realm who never thought they would or could be poets.
PWN: Who are the poets that are currently inspiring you? Who should we be reading?
Yesenia: So many! My favorite poets are: Aracelis Girmay, Ross Gay, Patrick Rosal, Sheila Maldonaldo, Roberto Carlos Garcia, Natalie Diaz, Omotara James, Ricardo Maldonaldo, John Murillo… I could keep going.
Well, thank you, Yesenia, for taking the time to talk to us!
Register now to join Yesenia for her Poetry & the Muse class!