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Inside the mind of a new professor
Jason Koo is an assistant professor of English, who was hired this semester. He teaches creative writing, and has written two poetry books, “Man on Extremely Small Island” and “America’s Favorite Poem.” Here are some snippets of our conversation.
Let’s start with a brief introduction of yourself.
I was hired as an assistant professor of English specifically to teach creative writing. My particular specialty in creative writing is poetry. They are starting a new creative writing concentration here, [and] they have a fiction professor already, so they hired me to kind of fill out the concentration and develop it over the next few years, which I am excited about.
How does being a professor affect your poetry, and does this job make it harder?
Well, I would say yes and no. I would say teaching in college, being a full-time professor, is really good for a poet, any creative writer really, but especially a poet, because you have a lot of time to yourself that you wouldn’t otherwise have if you had to work an everyday job all year round. The summer especially is a good time for me to write.
So it’s easy to assume your writing was driven by a passion for literature and poetry. What inspired you to become a professor?
I went to my Master in Fine Arts program, the first step to becoming a poet, which is a really weird thing when you’re that young, because all you really have is the passion as you mentioned, and you feel like you want to do this thing, but you really have no practical idea of how you’re going to make it possible. So, you end up going to graduate school because you know it makes the most sense.
I think I matured and I started to realize that, you know, teaching is a great job to have, because you get paid to talk about what you’re passionate about. And I still think that my identity as a poet, or even my style as a poet, is sort of similar to my teaching persona. My poetry is very conversational; it’s very voiced. It uses a lot of humor, but is also serious, and I think I take the same kind of stylistic approach in my teaching.
What were you doing before you came here?
I was teaching at the Lehman College in the city at the University of New York. It’s in the Bronx. I was doing that for three years, and I was also directing the graduate program. I was actually getting a lot of curricular building experience and administrative experience which I think helped me get this job because that’s another thing that I’m doing here.
How are you feeling about your classes so far and the students here?
I’m feeling really good. What I really appreciate about Quinnipiac is that the students are always more prepared. [Here] the students have been very bright. I’ve been impressed with their writing and the quality of their discussions. It’s been low-stress in that way.
Anything you want to say to the Quinnipiac community?
I’ll just reiterate how grateful I am that I’m here, that I was offered this job. I feel like the students are really bright, and it’s a great time to be here. The whole school I think is gaining an identity, and it’s kind of discovering what it is and what it’s going to be. Especially for my specific field it’s exciting because creative writing is growing and I just feel like in five years this place in some ways is going to look totally different.