“Slow Depth” Leads to Great Heights
MFA Student Jory Mickelson Publishes Chapbook
by Amanda Cairo
Jory Mickelson moved from the Bitterroot Valley in Montana to Washington for his first chapter of school, but it’s Idaho where he’s cementing his foundation in creative writing with an MFA and a newly published chapbook, “Slow Depth.”
“Growing up in such a beautiful setting, I learned to appreciate the land and nature,” says Mickelson. “I spent a lot of time fishing with my dad, who is a high school art teacher, and he helped me pay attention to detail.”
That attention to detail and a talent for putting it into words earned Mickelson the Grace V. Nixon Graduate Scholarship - for graduate students who intend to teach. And it’s the essence of Montana, from which he draws much of his inspiration for writing, that landed him in the winner’s circle in a Winged City Press competition. The prize? A published chapbook of poetry.
“I’m thrilled that it got picked up,” says Mickelson. “It’s a real honor to see hard work and dedication turn into something tangible you can hold in your hands and read out loud.”
For Mickelson, who makes his home in Bellingham, Wash., when he’s not in Moscow, writing poetry helps him come to terms with the feelings of loving a place, but no longer living there — how people’s lives are connected to regional places and how they become determining factors in thought processes, almost internal landscapes.
In between school, his teaching assistantship and other commitments, Mickelson has been working on this manuscript of poems for the last four years, in one stage or another. While he has had success in having individual poems published, this is his first collection to be published together, a big honor for a student.
“I make the time to write,” says Mickelson. “I feel that finding time to write is always the great challenge. And it takes a lot of time, or stubbornness, to be published. Success is writing a lot, not giving up and being willing to face another 30 rejections to see it through.”
Mickelson graduated from Western Washington University, and after taking a year off, applied for graduate school. With the goal of teaching creative writing at a university, Mickelson was looking for a program that matched his needs and goals. While at a writer’s conference in Washington, Mickelson met Robert Wrigley and Kim Barnes, U-Idaho English department faculty and mentors to MFA students whom he aspires to emulate.
“What really impressed me was getting to know that these excellent writers are also good teachers,” says Mickelson. “Meeting them in a writing setting before I actually got accepted helped me make my decision.”
Idaho also had another draw for Mickelson. His first influence in poetry was Richard Hugo, a Pacific Northwest-based poet who built the University of Montana’s creative writing program and whom Wrigley studied under. It also was the personal attention he received, even before he was accepted into the program, that persuaded him to come to U-Idaho.
“I really feel like the professors in the department want you to be successful writers,“ says Mickelson. “They don’t just give you their time, but they care about your intellectual development.”