Adair-Hodges’ poetic journey

November 1, 2017

More often then not, readers don’t get the chance to witness the failures writers encounter when they’re in the process of publishing work. People only see the end product, not the hours spent curating ideas and constructing a piece. 

“We so rarely get to write. And for every piece that works, there are countless ones that haven’t worked that you have to write,” author of “Let’s All Die Happy” Erin Adair-Hodges said.

In addition to publishing poems, essays and now her first book, Adair-Hodges is a creative writing professor at the University of Toledo. She has won seven different awards in writing and was most recently awarded the 2016 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize for “Let’s All Die Happy.” 

Born and raised in New Mexico, Adair-Hodges said she came to the University of Toledo to work with undergraduate students in creative writing. 

Enrolling in college as a theater major, Adair-Hodges soon realized she wasn’t dramatic enough to pursue this career path. Instead, her creativity led her to writing, a craft she practiced as a kid, Adair-Hodges said. 

“I didn’t start writing poetry until my last year of college because I thought I hated poetry,” Adair-Hodges said. “But, it turned out I just hadn’t read poetry that I liked. And I had only been shown, the kind of stuff most people are shown in high school.” 

After graduating with a master’s degree in poetry, she continued experimenting with different forms of writing, including essays, fiction and nonfiction. Adair-Hodges said she also wrote reviews, articles and profiles for a weekly alternative newspaper in Albuquerque.  

Around this time, she took a break from poetry and didn’t start writing again until the end of 2014, when she sent in her work for the first time. Her first accepted poem, “Of Yalta,” received the Georgia Review’s Loraine Williams Prize and is still widely published in literary journals today, Adair-Hodges said. 

Upon having her work recognized by one of the nation’s top literary journals, Adair-Hodges said she felt rather anxious sharing her poetry at first. However, her close friends talked her into sending in her work for publication.

She added women are not encouraged to be ambitious about their talents. However, being a feminist, Adair-Hodges thought she outsmarted those influences but later found out she was wrong. 

“All of those messages still rose into my brain and they impacted the choices I made – to not take myself seriously, to not see that I have something important to share,” Adair-Hodges said. “Now, I’ve realized that’s not true; but I still like to talk about it to encourage and help other younger writers.”

The same doubt followed Adair-Hodges while writing her book, “Let’s All Die Happy.” She said for a long time, she didn’t know she was writing a book and thought it was just poems, until her friend encouraged her to put it together as a book.

“At that point, I didn’t really have the confidence or vision to see myself as sort of like a professional poet,” Adair-Hodges said.

While writing, Adair-Hodges said so much of the poetry didn’t work at first so instead, she allowed her poems to find their own voice through new approaches, forms and contents. This encouraged her to push herself in directions she hadn’t before.

“Literature never succeeds when it plays it safe, and good writing comes from the writer having risked something,” Adair-Hodges said. 

“Let’s All Die Happy” is a collection of poems that allows readers to experience the world of a woman, Adair-Hodges said. It also discusses the experiences women open themselves up to because of the bodies they live in and deals with themes like a loss of religious faith and faith in cultural institutions.


The title was inspired by the first lines of one of her poems. Adair-Hodges said she struggled with titling her book for the longest time and didn’t arrive at a final decision until she printed out the title and sat with it for a while.

“The process of poetry can take years and years and years for me. For this first one, it didn’t take that long. But I’m currently working on a couple more and those are taking a lot longer,” Adair-Hodges said. 


What finally encouraged her to share her work with the world was the fear of mortality. When she was younger, she said she would constantly tell herself she would do it someday, but she soon realized that there are only a limited amount of some days.

“I really enjoyed the possibility, or the reward of imagination, that you know how satisfying it is when you construct something out of your own pieces of creativity,” Adair-Hodges said. “It’s so fun and it’s really frustrating too.”

Her book release reading and signing will take place in Libbey Hall on Thursday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m.


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