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Professor Mary Fister

Professor Mary Fister"Have you ever tasted a blackberry, strawberry, or blueberry?" That’s a question Mary Fister likes to ask her creative writing students, and when she talks about tasting berries, she means the kind you pull directly from a plant or a bush on a warm summer’s day. 

Fister, associate professor of English, believes that nature in its immediacy and freshness can be a wonderful inspiration for students learning how to read and write poetry or other forms of literature. She is a published poet who refers frequently to the natural world in her own work and whose poems have appeared in a number of prestigious national poetry journals. 

“Nature is a launching point,” Fister says. “It leads to some of the deeper questions about the nature of being; it’s a gateway where a lot of questions begin.” In her classes, Fister often chooses poems that praise the natural world. “We go outside,” she says, “and look at the birches on campus when we’re reading Robert Frost’s poem, 'Birches.'” 

“I know my students think I’m crazy because I get so excited and care so deeply about nature,” says Fister, “but I want them to understand the importance of slowing down and observing. In this technological age, they’re so bombarded with loud and fragmented things competing for their attention. It’s a mission that I have to help them develop an eye for observation and detail. That will help them no matter what career they choose.” 

And what if Fister gets a “No” to her berry question? “We line up a bunch of cars,” she says, “and I take the whole class strawberry picking.”