Author Q & A with William Trowbridge
by Christine Nessler
May 3, 2023
This week’s Author Q & A is with William Trowbridge. Call Me Fool, William Trowbridge’s ninth poetry collection, came out from Red Hen Press in September. Over 550 of his poems have appeared in numerous literary magazines and in more than fifty anthologies and textbooks. He is a faculty mentor in the University of Nebraska-Omaha Low-residency MFA in Writing Program and was Poet Laureate of Missouri from 2012 to 2016. For more information, see his website at williamtrowbridge.net.
Trowbridge’s poem, War Time, 1942, is featured in Issue #11 of The Good Life Review.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Chicago and grew up in Omaha. I have A.B. and M.A. degrees from the University of Missouri and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. I taught at Northwest Missouri State University for twenty-seven years and now am a mentor in the University of Nebraska Omaha MFA in Writing Program. I was there when that program started. I was Poet Laureate of Missouri from 2012 to 2016.
Wartime, 1942 packs a lot of emotion in just a few stanzas, conveying to the reader the shock experienced by a young man transitioning from his peaceful home life to the horrors of war. What inspired you to write Wartime, 1942 and in this dramatic fashion?
The poem describes a photo of my father cradling me, then an infant, before embarking for the European combat theater in World War II. His unit was to participate in the liberation of the Nazis’ Buchenwald concentration camp, where he encountered the horrors they left behind after fleeing the American forces.
What message do you hope reaches your audience through Wartime, 1942?
I hope the poem will help remind readers of the evils of the Holocaust, especially at a time when anti-semitism seems to be surging in this country. I can imagine what my father and others who risked their lives to defeat the Nazis would think seeing Americans hailing swastikas and Hitler photographs.
How have your life experiences impacted the way you write?
I suppose, like most poets, my poems come either from personal experience or books.
How has poetry shaped your life or helped you make sense of the world around you?
I think writing poems is certainly a way of trying to make sense of the human condition. Of course that’s a lifelong process.
Tell us about work you have done or are doing that makes you most proud.
I guess I’m most proud of teaching students to appreciate and write poetry, both of which I think enrich their lives.
How do you encourage your students to express themselves?
I try to encourage students to discover their particular path to writing poems. There are many such paths, but one often starts out writing like a favorite poet/s before developing a unique voice. I always stress how important it is to keep reading lots of good poetry. That’s a primary way to learn to write it.
How does being an educator change the way you see the world?
I believe being an educator helps a person better empathize with one’s fellow humans.
How do you stay inspired as a poet?
I stay motivated by not waiting for a flash of inspiration. Such a wait can turn writers into would-be writers. I just keep busy at my desk.
What style of poetry helps you to best express yourself and why?
I write both in form and in free verse. My choice depends on the poem I’m writing.
What do you think when you hear the phrase, “The Good Life?”
Right now, the name of your magazine comes to mind first. I’m still working on that phrase’s meaning in the broader sense.