Rion Amilcar Scott’s debut story collection, Insurrections, won the PEN/ Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and was selected for The Rumpus’s book club. His writing has appeared in publications including Fiction International, The Kenyon Review, Crab Orchard Review, [PANK], The Rumpus, and The Toast, and he received a notable mention in Best American Essays 2015. He received an MFA from George Mason University, and he currently teaches English at Bowie State University.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer?
I saw a tweet the other day by Natalie Eilbert that read in part: “You’re only as good a writer as you are a reader of poetry.” That, put succinctly, is the most important thing I’ve learned about writing. It’s the reason that I read at least a poem a day even though I no longer write poetry. Right now, I’m reading a collection called Let It Die Hungry by Caits Meissner. Some poets I return to are: Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, Martín Espada, Derek Walcott…there are more. Oh, and [Pablo] Neruda. Neruda always.
How has this helped you as a writer?
Reading poetry every day makes your language more fluid. It makes you more attuned to the weight of words and more conversant with image and metaphor. I once watched in horror at the stiffness of my sentences until this little trick thoroughly remade me.
—Gabriel Packard is the author of the novel The Painted Ocean and the associate director of the creative writing MFA program at Hunter College in New York City.
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