Courtesy of Elaine Kahn
By Anushka Chakrabarti
Elaine Kahn, a writer and artist based in Los Angeles, is the writer-in-residence in the UCLA Department of English for spring 2022.
A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Kahn has taught at Pomona College, Saint Mary’s College of California, the University of Iowa and elsewhere. She is the author of the full-length poetry collections “Women in Public” and “Romance or The End,” and her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Art Papers magazine and other publications. She founded the Poetry Field School, where she teaches independent workshops to writers of all levels.
Kahn held a reading at UCLA on April 19 as part of the department’s Grace M. Hunt Memorial English Reading Room Writers Series. The event was followed by a Q&A session with students and other members of the community.
“The students asked tons of questions — it was great to hear what they were thinking about, and I got to speak with some of them after the reading and Q&A as well,” Kahn said. “I love teaching, and I love meeting writers and talking to young writers, so it’s been really wonderful.”
Kahn says she is often asked whether an academic background is required in order to participate in the poetry community, but she says it isn’t necessary.
“I think those communities can take place or be formed anywhere,” she adds. “That’s one of the things I love about writing: it’s accessible and portable, and it’s not necessarily something that you need specialized knowledge or tools in order to participate in. That said, academic institutions provide easy access to these communities, as well as supporting instruction on history, literature, theory and other subjects–all of which have the potential to deepen one’s connection with poetry.”
As part of her work as writer-in-residence, Kahn is teaching a poetry seminar this quarter. She speaks highly of her students’ performance, impressed with their level of writing, the questions they ask and the feedback they offer to one another.
Overall, Kahn says, she writes about the things she is trying to understand in the world, and she hopes to share that sense of exploration with her readers. “I’m not trying to instruct through my writing,” she says. “I invite readers to think through that with me.”