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Rock affiliate faculty member Gabeba Baderoon name "Artist of the Month"

“I like writing in my journals with a pen. The act of writing and the physical contact with pen and paper gives me inspiration,” says Gabeba Baderoon, a South African poet from the city of Cape Town who joined the departments of Women’s Studies and African and African American studies at Penn State as an assistant professor in July 2008. “I never thought I would be a poet until I came to Penn State in 1999.”
by Rob Peeler Jan 10, 2017

by   on December 29, 2016

Gabeba Baderoon headshot“I like writing in my journals with a pen. The act of writing and the physical contact with pen and paper gives me inspiration,” says Gabeba Baderoon, a South African poet from the city of Cape Town who joined the departments of Women’s Studies and African and African American studies at Penn State as an assistant professor in July 2008. “I never thought I would be a poet until I came to Penn State in 1999.”

Baderoon is the author of three collections of poetry: The Dream in the Next Body (2005), The Museum of Ordinary Life (2005), and A Hundred Silences (2006). When she first came to Penn State as a Visiting Fellow in 1999, she decided to take some creative classes, including drawing and creative writing. One of the best creative writing classes she took was poetry.

“It was a beginner-level class. But it was a life-changing experience to me,” she says. “I discovered a new way of using language — poetry. It taught me to think of language as a creative act rather than an analytical act. It was absolutely incredible.”

When asked about the secret of being a good poet, she thinks for a second and says, “Listening. Listening to your audience is one of the most crucial parts of being a successful poet. When I read a poem in front of an audience, the feeling between us tells me whether it is good or not. As a creative writer, learning from your audience is a difficult skill to acquire. It is one of the biggest challenges that all poets tend to face throughout their career. You have to keep a balance. You can’t be too stubborn, that way you will close yourself off and stop improving. But you also have to be just stubborn enough to keep your own perspective and originality.  

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