Alumni Poet Spotlight: Emma Reinhardt ’16 ’19MFA

Black background with headshot of Emma Reinhardt ’16 ’19MFA

April is National Poetry Month! National Poetry Month was launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996. This year marks the 25th anniversary of this annual celebration.

Throughout the month of April, we will be spotlighting a few of our UCF alumni poets! Meet Emma Reinhardt ’16 ’19MFA :

Tell us a little about yourself!

My name is Emma Noelle Reinhardt, and I graduated from UCF’s MFA in Creative Writing program with a focus in Poetry in 2019. I grew up in a close family in a rural development surrounded by trees and tons of pets, so nature and stories from my childhood often find their way into my writing. I enjoy writing poems that explore the juxtaposition between the expectations we have of life, relationships, society, and gender roles as children with the realities we face in our adulthoods. My work has received honorable mention in the AWP Intro Journal Project Awards, and I’ve been featured in Orlando’s own Loose Lips reading series. I currently live with my fiancé and a very adorable pitbull named Bruce (after the shark from Finding Nemo).

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

My journey with writing started when my older sister began writing tons of stories in middle school and six-year-old Emma wanted to be just like her sister. I tried writing a story about a kidnapped princess and a ghost… and I never finished it. After a few more false starts, I began writing a fantasy novel for that same sister as a Christmas gift for her when I was in high school. And I got hooked. I think the ability to craft your own reality and tell a story in the exact way that you want to is very alluring to any kid that grew up reading a lot, like I did. There is something irreplaceable about the feeling of getting lost in another world that you created. It wasn’t until my first year studying Creative Writing as an undergraduate student at UCF that I realized I actually wanted to be a poet, but, starting with a story about a girl and her talking raven, I knew I wanted to write for the rest of my life.

What do you love the most about writing poetry?

The way that a poem can explore so much with so few words. I teach my students that a story is like a broth while a poem is a bouillon cube. All of that depth and richness of an entire broth is crammed into this one little cube. That economy of language and precision of imagery is often the most challenging part of poetry, but it’s what makes it the most magical to me. The fact that—often in less than a page—a poem can strive to unpack and question all the complexity of what it is to be human and to live within the society we’re born into, that it can do this purely through showing its readers the questions it wants us to ponder and leaving us to find the answers ourselves, that will never cease to entrance me.

What’s your writing process? What inspires your writing?

My process for writing poetry is entirely too fickle. With fiction writing, I can force myself to sit down and push the words out, knowing I can hone them later, but with poetry I really do have to be visited by some spark of inspiration in order to begin that process. It’s hard to say what will inspire me to write because it can often change, but I find that nature and reading authors I admire are especially good conduits for creativity for me. I’ll get secondhand inspiration from a line I’ve read, or I’ll see an image while driving or walking at night, and then I have the start of a poem. But it always starts with some image I can’t get out of my head.

What was a class or club at UCF that helped you grow as a writer?

In undergrad, my introductory poetry workshop with Don Stap was what put me on the path toward becoming the poet I am today. Prof. Stap is retired now, but his eye for detail and his bluntness helped me realize I could maybe have place in the poetry landscape. Then, in UCF’s MFA program, Prof. Terry Ann Thaxton taught two joint Poetry and Nonfiction Workshop courses that taught me how to be fiercely, fearlessly myself in my writing. Terry Thaxton is the person who helps you peel back the scar tissue and find the real you underneath the you that you thought was you. My time studying at UCF genuinely transformed not only my writing but the person who was creating it as well. I have so much love and gratitude for all of my professors in the writing program.

Who are some of your favorite poets?

Kim Addonizio is top of the list with her visceral imagery and biting exploration of womanhood. Her book Lucifer at the Starlite is one of my absolute favorites. I’m also a big fan of Terrance Hayes, Jamaal May, Maggie Smith, and Janet McNally.

What else?! What are you currently working on right now?

Currently, I’ve been teaching composition at Valencia college and working on collecting poems from my master’s thesis into a chapbook exploring childhood, identify, gender, and relationships through the lens of children’s games and board games.

Where can we find your work?

My poems can be found in UCF’s very own literary magazine, The Cypress Dome, and keep a lookout for new publications from me!

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UCF Alumni Book Club

You can find more alumni author poets on the UCF Alumni Book Club website and browse listings for over 75 alumni authors. If you’ve published a book, let us know!

Once a semester, the book club selects a book written by an alumni author to read and discuss. Learn more about the book club and how to join!

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