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creative writing

A season in Tulsa: In conversation with Dustin Pearson

Dustin Pearson is a visiting assistant professor in the University of Tulsa’s Department of English and Creative Writing. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English literature from Clemson University, Pearson completed a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing (poetry) at Arizona State University.

young man with short hair seated and smiling at the camera
Visiting Assistant Professor Dustin Pearson

Last month, Pearson defended his doctoral dissertation at Florida State University and will receive his Ph.D. in English (creative writing) in December. Pearson’s third collection of poetry, A Season in Hell with Rimbaud, will be published by BOA Editions in May 2022.

Congratulations on A Season in Hell with Rimbaud. Would you tell me a little about this poetry collection?

A Season in Hell with Rimbaud is a story of two brothers. The older brother makes his natural descent into Hell and the younger brother follows him, believing it’s eventually going to happen to him too. In Hell, they have a house, and in the older brother’s state of delusion he convinces himself to go outside. The collection is centered on the brothers’ relationship.

What inspired you during your writing process for this collection?

The collection is inspired by an argument I had with my brother 9 years ago. At the end of the argument, he decided we wouldn’t pursue closeness with each other. Over the years, though, his actions began to contradict what he decided, but we’d never talk about it. This collection became the closest I could get to having that conversation with him. Aesthetically, the collection is a mash-up of Southern Gothic and French Symbolist aesthetics.

How did you feel when you found out you received a Pushcart Prize for A Season in Hell with Rimbaud?

I was honestly really surprised. I didn’t really know what it meant to receive a Pushcart Prize. I had always seen everyone announcing their nominations online but had never paid much attention to who actually won them. My friends Will and Paige helped me to understand how big of a deal it was.

black, white and red book cover for A Season in Hell with Rimbaud by Dustin PearsonYou have spent many years furthering your education. How has this helped you in your career?

Being in school for so long has given me a lot of time to think about who I want to be as a writer and to pursue those ambitions. Education has also given me the ability to consider different bodies of knowledge I can apply to my writing.

Do you recommend graduate degrees for English undergraduates?

I think English undergraduates owe it to themselves to see how their perspective changes at the graduate level. They can deepen their investment in all the things they found exciting in their undergrad or pursue something new.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you present your poetry?

It allowed me to make my poetry much more visual and invested in aspects of film and other media. I actually started to make gifs and gif poems during the pandemic.

Does anything surprise you about your writing?

I’m surprised that people find my work and love it. Coming into contact with people who love my writing is something I’ve come to cherish.

What’s been your favorite work that you have written so far?

That’s a hard one! I cherish all of my works for different reasons. If I had to choose, though, it would be a toss-up between Millennial Roost and A Season in Hell with Rimbaud. I’m proud of Millennial Roost and what it came to be as my first work.

You have been teaching at TU since August. What have been some highlights?

I’ve really enjoyed the intimate proximity with the students and getting to know them. I get satisfaction from seeing students come into the realization of the possibilities creative writing holds for them. I also love the Department of English and Creative Writing. I like the sense of community here at TU.

young man with short hair standing outdoors near green trees

What are you reading right now for fun and for work?

For work, I am reading Exhausted on the Cross by Najwan Darwish in my advanced poetry course. For my introduction to creative writing courses, I’m reading my students’ short stories and a sampling of fiction, creative nonfiction and poems from contemporary authors. It’s exciting to see how the students react to these authors and the work of their colleagues.

What are your other favorite activities outside of writing?

I love playing video games, watching movies, vlogging, making gifs, filmmaking and changing the pitch of songs. I know it’s a weird and diverse list of hobbies.

Tell me about your course on the Southern gothic schedule for the spring 2022 semester.

This course is going to be a multi-genre creative writing workshop centered around gothic and horror writing. We’re going to lay the foundation of the American gothic and compare it to the more contemporary horror writing it inspired.

What are you most excited about currently?

I’m excited to celebrate the new book in Tulsa. I’m also excited to continue integrating myself and discovering all Tulsa has to offer an artist.

Does creative writing inspire you? If so, learn more about the fascinating pathways available at TU’s Department of English and Creative Writing.