Lauren Hilger

Alumna, 2002

Lauren Hilger attended the Workshop in poetry in 2002 and joined the residential staff as a teacher and counselor in 2010.

Where are you living and what brought you there?

I live in Manhattan and have lived here, with the exception of a few months, since I was an undergrad at NYU. I am here for the museums, friends, and being able to walk everywhere.

What do you find yourself most often reading/listening to lately and why?

I actually have put recordings of my favorite poems on my iPod. Sylvia Plath, Frank O’Hara, John Berryman. You end up memorizing them, and then you can recite “Lady Lazarus” at any slight prompting.

The soundtrack to my work is very American standard — Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, et al. I’m a romantic. I love how earnest those songs feel to me.

Also reading Spinoza at the moment.

What are you working on right now and what does it represent in the larger body of your artistic accomplishments?

I just finished my first manuscript. I started it in the spring of 2012 at the MacDowell Colony and finished it there during my second residency, Jan-Mar 2014. I found putting together a manuscript much more humbling than I’d expected. I had no idea how many times I wouldn’t be able to get it right, and just how many variables there are in putting your work together as a unit. Moreover, I wanted it to be something larger than the individual poems, something that I hope is worth my reader’s time and that I believe in.

What are your publications, performances, albums, and/or achievements that seem most important to you at this point in time?

I was named the 2012 Nadya Aisenberg fellow from the MacDowell Colony, where I was in residence in 2012 and 2014. I received the Agha Shahid Ali scholarship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown for their summer workshop and a fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts this past fall.

I am a finalist for the Iowa Review Prize, the Mississippi Review Prize, the Wabash Poetry Prize, and have been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

I am honored to have poems published or forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, The Cortland Review, Harvard Review Online, and elsewhere.

How would you characterize the influence of your YWW experience in your life?

YWW provided the first opportunity for me to introduce myself to others as a poet. As a sixteen-year-old, I was treated as a real writer, not someone who wanted to be one when she grew up. I’m grateful to have been affirmed in that way, even before I’d begun. Without it feeling like work, and along with all my friends, I was able to learn and practice form, performance, and collaboration.

The workshop setting at YWW became a model, a standard of respect and inquiry that I’ve attempted to recreate as a teacher and co-facilitator of my own creative writing workshop in NY.

I remember that first summer I attended both YWW and cheerleading camp. Needless to say, YWW provided a different kind of confidence. It was a crucial support and acknowledgment of my drive to be a writer. Also, taking the “African Dance” and “How to Check the Oil of your Car” mini-courses have stayed with me.

What’s the best advice you can give a Young Writer (in general or in your specific genre)?

Take notes. Always be taking notes, even if you are teased for always taking notes. Everywhere you go, take notice. Type up your notes at the end of the day and realize they weren’t long enough. Take longer notes. Pay attention and write into what you wish could happen, what you want people to really know.

Where can we find you online?

Personal webiste: www.laurenhilger.com

Poetry editor for No Tokens Journal