Professor Spotlight: Adam Houle

After dedicating both his education and life to poetry, Adam Houle, assistant professor of English, continues to pass his passion for language onto his students in his fourth year at FMU.  

“I wanted others to tumble poems around in their heads like little stones,” Houle said. “I feel a sort of joyful obligation to do right by my professors and mentors and becoming a professor was the best way to share my love of writing, to pass along the good craft to others.” 

Houle did not originally plan on poetry, or teaching poetry for that matter, but he discovered his true interests aligned with his current career.  

“I had some vague ideas about public policy and bioethics, but I found myself more interested in tinkering with language, in giving shape to experience, witness and place,” Houle said. “I was fortunate to fall in with generous, kind writers at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UW-GB), and it felt natural to dedicate myself to studying poems.” 

After his experience with UW-GB, Houle continued his academic career at Texas Tech where he earned his PhD. He moved to South Carolina to teach at a different institution before he began his career at FMU in 2019.  

During his time at FMU thus far, Houle said he holds the most appreciation for his students.  

“I’m fortunate to teach at the 100, 200, and 300 level, and I enjoy working with students at various points in their college years,” Houle said. “They keep me curious, open, and interested in the field. Seeing a student’s work move from its early stages to a full draft to a revised draft is gratifying.” 

He also said he has excellent colleagues who contribute to a kind, supportive learning community. 

Outside of his role as a professor, Houle dedicates his time to writing. In 2017, he released an 80-page poetry book titled “Stray.” 

“I guess it was fueled by many smaller inspirations,” Houle said. “The poems in ‘Stray’ try to make sense of landscape and its hold (or lack of a hold) on a person, its iciness and its dangers, the way place can define and limit or enlarge.” 

For Houle, his creative process revolves around consistency. He tries to work on one poem a day, whether writing a new work or continuing another one.  

“If I show up to write and put some words on the page, I’m hopeful a poem will take shape, and I’ll work hard to see that it does take shape,” Houle said. “But some days it feels slow and uninspired. That’s fine. It’s still writing time.” 

Houle also finds reading works from a variety of genres helps him keep his mind open to new ways of conceptualizing. 

“Reading is central,” Houle said. “Reading widely and across eras and genres keeps me open to new ways to thinking and feeling, and I like to spend time with work others aren’t currently obsessing over. It removes me from the rush of conversation and lets me pursue my own habits of mind at my own pace.” 

Houle helps contribute to others’ reading habits through his editorial contributions to the “Twelve Mile Review” magazine.  

He worked with the founder of the magazine, Robert Kendrick, on poems before cultivating a friendship. When Kendrick created the magazine, Houle saw the first issue and joined in. Currently, the magazine has several poems featured on the “Verse Daily” website.  

With all of his responsibilities, Houle must find a way to balance his life. Throughout his years writing and teaching, he said he has learned how to use his time thoughtfully.  

“Feeling harried isn’t ideal for my teaching, my writing, or my editing,” Houle said. “I do not like multi-tasking. I mean, I like having multiple tasks to do, but the implication that you can somehow have multiple lines of attention running at once feels like a trap someone sets to make you think you’re not smart enough or not doing enough. I prefer to give my full attention to the task at hand.” 

Though he may be juggling multiple tasks, he keeps himself fully available and present for students to come get feedback on their own poetry or to discuss their thoughts on assigned readings.  

“So, when a student comes to student hours with a new poem or an essay or to talk about a reading, that’s the only thing I want to think about for our time working together,” Houle said. “How deflating would it be to want to share your ideas or work with someone who can only give you a quarter of their attention?” 

Houle’s next steps revolve around the publication of a new issue of “Twelve Mile Review.” Once it is published, he said he will start nominating poems for a slew of poetry-related prize anthologies. 

“We publish good poems that deserve even wider recognition,” Houle said.  

In the near future, Houle hopes to finish organizing material for a new poetry book. 

“I’m also sifting through a stack of my poems, revising, ordering, and imagining how they might hang together for the next collection,” Houle said. “And, as always, I have wild ideas for a book-length poem I’ve whispered about for years and made very little headway on. Who knows! Maybe talking about it here will get me drafting.”