Interview: Poet Nina Forsythe by Jessica Palumbo

Posted: May 18, 2010 by fsucenterforcreativewriting in Interview, Poetry

I have been interested for a while in how a person shares their creative self with others. Toying with this question, I thought of talking to local poet Nina Forsythe, who currently runs creative writing workshops for both the Cumberland YMCA’s Girls Group Home and an elementary school student workshop at the Frostburg Public Library. Nina began her journey as a writer in high school, writing short stories. Eventually, her stories became shorter and shorter until she decided they would work better as poems. While she admits that she is interested in narrative, she enjoys the flexibility that poetry allows. Joking with me, she admits her first works of writing were that of a “moody misunderstood teenager,” but she also stresses that the work of a misunderstood teenager is important to a writer’s discovery of his or her own voice.

Nina was nervous when first asked to do the workshop at the group home at the YMCA. However, working with the girls at the group home gave Nina a “creative challenge.” She held no reservations about how the workshop would go. Instead, she planned things, and if they did not work, she would try others. When she first began the workshop, she says she was met with crossed arms: “there was a lot of resentment and suspicion,” she says, but the girls warmed up to her; in some ways it was as if she had to “prove herself.” Nina’s main reason for doing the workshop was to help the girls find their own voice. She says, “I don’t censor them; I don’t try to correct their grammar—I want to be as encouraging as possible because it is self expression.” Now, the girls are producing a lot of musical material, and she thinks some of them may be ready to work with the revision process. The girls have done writing activities such as the rant and memorial poem.

Nina expresses that facilitating the workshops has jolted her from old habits. Each workshop gives her a good reminder of the different aspects of craft in her own poetry. With the elementary school workshop, Nina notices the students play with sounds and the imagination, and she enjoys seeing how their minds are  at play. The elementary school workshop is preparatory: the children are trained in the craft of poetry without knowing they are being trained.  Before this workshop, Nina taught poetry to elementary students for Arts in the Schools Week. She was excited by the positive response of the children during the lessons and drew on those experiences to put together the elementary school writing workshop for the Center.  Overall, Nina has enjoyed facilitating the workshops and is excited for the organic growth of the Center for Creative Writing, believing that it is important that creative outlets exist for all ages of people in the community. She would like to see more publicity in local schools for all of the activities offered by the Center, and she is hopeful that people will continue to show their interest.

by Jessica Palumbo

Jessica Palumbo graduated from Frostburg State University with a degree in Creative Writing in December 2009. She served as an intern for the Center for Creative Writing during the Fall 2009 semester. She currently lives in Frostburg, Maryland.

Nina Forsythe currently lives in Frostburg, Maryland, after wandering from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Wisconsin, to Kansas, to Nicaragua, and to Iowa. She has an MFA from Bennington and has had poems in many journals, including the Loch Raven Review, and the local Backbone Mountain Review.

Students from the Frostburg Public Library Workshop


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