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Academic Excellence: Rachel Kaminer

Something Unusual/idiosyncratic?
I lived in a wilderness setting for about two years facilitating experiential education and therapy. I can carve a bow-drill set and bust a coal.

 

Hometown?
I was born in San Luis Obispo [California] and grew up in the mountains around Asheville, N.C.
 

Why Otis?
I decided to pursue an MFA in L.A., and Paul Vangelisti conveyed to me that Graduate Writing is about reading and writing and making and translating, in what we might call the “Un-American Tradition.” I knew I wanted to be in the company of writers and artists who conducted themselves as colleagues, who brought diverse life experience to their practices. I remember reading the book list Jen Hofer posted online for one of her courses with such excitement. That’s when I knew I would apply. And the web page had such lovely design. I guessed that meant Otis was a good fit for students who pay attention both to form and content.


Your thesis project?
A book-length work of poetry—this means the poetry is talking to itself across the breadth of the whole work. The book is about listening. Or, put another way, it’s the joy and
responsibility that we have in language; that we make meaning; that it’s musical. Then again, it recently became apparent to me that I may complete an entire book of poetry with these philosophical ideas as an influence—and then it will turn out to be about heartbreak. The joke is on me for being the last one to get it.
 

Interesting things that you did outside of school?
I’ve done all sorts of interesting things through WriteGirl, a nonprofit based in my neighborhood. My favorite has been facilitating writing workshops for incarcerated young
women.


Most influential faculty member?
Impossible to say. I worked with and for Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and Dr. Carol Branch, and they are supremely influential role models, personally and professionally. I have to point out how influential my poet-colleagues have been, along with Jackie Young, the mastermind of two graduate departments and my supervisor, in shaping my time here.
 

Favorite place in L.A.?
Walking in my neighborhood is pretty great: the 6th Street Bridge, the channelized L.A. River, La Reyna taco stand at 7th and Mateo, and my neighbors at Factory Place, who have become hearth and home.
 

What’s next?
Writing, teaching, editing, choosing additional rent-paying professions. Publishing. Going to the desert when the Perseids fall.
 

Information/tips for future students?
The poetry alums have an ongoing conversation in poetry and in life, and that’s the best reason to attend. Choose your community of colleagues. And explore every neighborhood you can.