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Creative Writing Major Alumni Share Stories of Different Paths


After wandering the familiar halls of their alma mater where they first met, alumni Martin “Marty” Cain ’13 and Kina Viola ’14 discussed their lives post-Hamilton in a “What I Did with My Major in Literature & Creative Writing” session hosted by the Career Center on Dec. 1.

Cain majored in interdisciplinary poetics at Hamilton, received a M.F.A. in poetics from the University of Mississippi, and is the author of Kids of the Black Hole. Viola was a creative writing concentrator and currently edits and designs chapbooks for Big Lucks Books. Together, they run Garden-Door Press: a micro-press with unique, hand-stitched coverings and designs.

The two took different routes with their interests in poetry after Hamilton; Cain spoke on his experience focusing on graduate-level, scholarly work at Cornell University where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in literature and language.

“The best thing that you can do if you really want to sustain your relationship to poetry is to meet people who have similar poetic interests as you, and people who you can have life-long literary friendships with,” Cain advised. He described how his MFA and poetry helped him understand his relationship to literary communities, especially as he would meet other writers at public readings or on online blogs and websites.

Viola remarked that she still contributes to the literary world even without pursuing more scholarly work, such as by running a press with Cain or having discussions with fellow writers. She commented on the importance of writing literary reviews, mentioning how her review was seen by those at Big Luck Books and helped her receive an editing role at the press.

As former contributors to Hamilton’s Red Weather literary magazine and with Cain being a past Senior Fellow, the two reminisced how the opportunities they were offered at Hamilton — such as grants, submissions to campus publications, and even the classes they took — largely influenced their understanding of poetry and the publishing world.

“If you find places - even if they’re really small - like blogs, campus publications, or people’s projects, it’s a really good way to get into the zone of sending things out and seeing what aesthetically fits with your own work,” Viola said. “It take a while to figure out the best home for your pieces; but those networks will support you.”

As editors, they also explained that they are mostly “paying attention to what people are interested in reading” especially in a politically-charged society. They envision “lifting up the voices of other people” but enjoy making their own decisions to publish certain works as founders of their own press.

The two also presented some of their works in a poetry reading hosted by the Literature & Creative Writing Department.

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