Robert Fanning: Poet and Professor

Story by Jordan Raes 

“Making art out of the malleable music of our language, finding new windows into one’s life and into the world is delightful,” Robert Fanning, a professor at Central Michigan University and poetry author, said.

“But it is not to be taken lightly. It is a craft; it takes time and effort. It is also hard work. It takes guts, determination and a lot of bravery and sweat. It is a solitary art; it can be lonely in the making.”

Fanning teaches creative writing courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels here at CMU, and he encourages students to take creative writing courses. He loves being a professor and what he teaches.

“I thoroughly love teaching creative writing courses because I am a practicing poet as well, and love to share with my students what I’ve learned about this art, and to connect it to their lives, to show them how relevant and necessary poetry is to our lives,” he said.

Fanning has written six books of poetry over the course of this life. He got seriously into writing poetry in high school where he was inspired by a teacher he had.

“For me, early on, poetry was a way to both make sense of some of the complexities of the world and my life,” he said. “Later, as I learned more and more about the craft, it became even more exciting. It’s a life-long journey writing poems, and a constant challenge. I love the moment when, after working and working on reaching for the right words—a poem’s greater truth comes out to greet me.”

Writing a book of poetry had always been a dream of Fanning’s, now he feels “incredibly lucky and thrilled” to have published six.

“My books vary in style and approaches,” Fanning said. “I’m always trying to find new territory as a poet, to expand what I know about my own life and about the art in the process. I hope that there’s something for everyone in the pages of my books.”

Fanning encourages his students and all people to read a wide variety of poetry to help broaden their minds and better their lives. 

“Read as much and as widely as possible,” he said. “Read contemporary work and classic work. Read with hunger and joy. Read anthologies and individual collections. Find poets you love and read all their work, but also read work that challenges you, or that you think you dislike. The work you think you don’t love now might be the poetry that reaches you the most later. Let it all in—read with an open mind and an open heart.”

Fanning is more than just a professor at CMU, he is a published poet and he loves the work that he does. Poetry is an ever changing form of expression and one that could be the healing power the world needs, or just what one person needs.

“Poetry delights and teaches,” he said. “It is a way to express ourselves, to be heard. At a time when the world is so complex, so terrifying, poetry can also provide a way for us to speak, to have a voice, to make sense of who we are in the world, and how to endure.”

Follow Fanning’s WordPress site to stay up to date and take a deeper look into his works.