Writers

Teacher Spotlight: Daniela Molnar

Daniela Molnar (she/her) founded the Art + Ecology program at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. She is a backcountry guide and an all-around integral part of Signal Fire, providing opportunities for artists to learn about environmental justice by engaging with public wild lands.She is founding Co-Editor of Leaf Litter, Signal Fire’s art and literary journal and Art Editor at The Bear Deluxe Magazine. Her work has been shown nationally and has been recognized by grants from the Ford Family Foundation, the Regional Arts and Culture Council, and the Pacific Northwest College of Art. She was nominated as a finalist for the Creative Climate Awards in 2018. She has been awarded numerous residencies, including Caldera, Sitka Center, and The Spring Creek Project, North Street Collective, The Sable Project, Elsewhere Studios, Sou’wester, and Leland Iron Works. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in FugueMossTripwire: A Journal of PoeticsBomb CyclonepetrichorLEONDiscursive ImpulseGAZEArchivaria, and Submit.

This fall, Daniela is teaching Nature Writing Now and Writing Along the Seam. Here is what she has to say about her classes and about what inspires her.


Why do you enjoy teaching this class? 
I’m teaching two upcoming classes so I’ll talk about both. 

Nature Writing Now: I am fascinated by conceptions of nature and how they have shifted over time. The ways that we think and write about nature reflect the ways that we think and write about being human. I think about “place” as a form of living history, encompassing all human and other-than-human stories. Place is a record of, and an ongoing, active participant in, struggles for justice, visibility, and vitality. 

Writing Along the Seam: This is a class that is focused on hybrid writing. My own work is very hybrid, melding visual forms, poetry, and essay, and I love reading works that blend various approaches and/or disciplines because I am fascinated by all things liminal — the sunrise, the fall and the spring, the long liminal space of “middle age”… I think there is a particular type of understated magic that can happen when we discard the silos that our culture so enthusiastically enforces. These silos are often more about consumerism than art — what happens when we free ourselves from these marketing preconceptions and let our ideas spill across forms, mediums, and styles? 

Why this genre? 
Both of the classes I’ll be teaching are intentionally genre-breaking, genre-melting. I think my reasoning for this is articulated above: genres can sometimes be helpful constraints but they can also often be false limitations. 

Another way to put this: Danielle Vogel defines language as: “a communal lung that holds and remembers all things through us. … A neural interconnectivity … an extended nervous system that we all share.” I believe that writing of all forms nurtures this shared nervous system, sometimes by shocking it and sometimes by soothing it; both can be a form of necessary nurturance. 

How would you describe your teaching style?
In 9 words: We’re all teachers. We’re all learners. Listen, listen more. 

How is each session structured? 
I’ll provide a prompt and a slew of wide-ranging relevant readings for the upcoming week. Prompts will be relevant to any style of writing and the readings will encompass diverse and contradictory points of view, styles, and genres. A shared google doc will be available between classes. I’ll post some questions on the document each week to start the conversation. When we meet, we’ll talk about the readings for the first 30 minutes or so of class then we’ll workshop each person’s writing. 

Where do you draw inspiration from? (in your own writing or in your pedagogy)
I consider teaching to be an important part of my artistic practice so all of my teaching interactions are fodder for inspiration! I think of inspiration as ambient — the stuff of life, always available. Air itself is inspiration, down to its etymology. “The visible is thick but the invisible is thicker.” (Brenda Hillman) 

I find myself inspired by the most banal things sometimes — water from the tap, seedheads of weeds, a spider web, salt. The work of others — writing of all sorts and art of all mediums — is a constant source of inspiration, as are conversations with my smart friends and students. I am inspired, too, by all bodies of water, which is to say: life. 

What would you want each person to leave with from taking this course?
The courses are focused on different topics but I think I’d be honored if each person left with the same essential thing: an awareness that writers (to build on Yusef Komunyakaa’s idea) are the caretakers of language and attention. To write is to tend to language. Our writing allows us to “listen in strange ways,” in the words of Ross Gay, a type of listening that is fundamental to being fully human.

What is keeping you going while sheltering in place?
My cat, cooking, gardening, phone calls with friends and family, political protest, laughter, ongoing creative projects, books, books, books, music, cleaning, lavender-scented baths, alleyways, fruit trees, crows, too much coffee. 

Where will you be teaching/telecommunicating from?
I live in the Woodstock/Arleta neighborhood in deep SE Portland. My studio is a big, airy place that looks out on my garden. Right now, there are a lot of sunflowers, purple beans, and tomatoes, as well as many busy squirrels and a young Scrub Jay. I like to think of place in broader/more elemental terms, as well: I’ll be teaching in the Cascadian bioregion on a rectangle of gridded land that sits atop the buried headwaters confluence of two watersheds. I’ll be teaching on the unceded land of the Clackamas, Cowlitz, Chinook, Multnomah, and other Indigenous peoples. 

Favorite book? Writers? Literary pieces?
I simply cannot pick a favorite of any of these! Here is a very incomplete list of some writers that are inspiring me lately: 

  • Brian Teare
  • Cecilia Vicuña
  • Etel Adnan
  • Angela Hume
  • Lia Purpura
  • Daisy Hildyard
  • Han Kang
  • Alice Notley, and a favorite recent quote by her: “The universe is held together by communication. …Everything is communication. Scientific concepts like gravity and so on are all about bits of matter communicating with each other.”
  • Anne Carson
  • Brenda Hillman
  • Lorca
  • Juliana Spahr
  • Gillian Conoley
  • Muriel Rukeyser
  • Adrienne Rich
  • Ross Gay
  • Mark Nowak
  • Rebecca Solnit
  • Anne Boyer
  • Jed Rasula
  • Michael Taussig 
  • I could go on… I’ll stop there!

Check out this recent interview of Daniela by poetry mini interviews. You can read more of her work at Fugue, LEON, and Bomb Cyclone.

*Featured image by Genaro Molina of Los Angeles Times

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