Sharing the Journey

Life provides inspiration and creative energy for Jim Peterson

Jim Peterson still remembers his first book of poetry.

He illustrated it himself, and it brought high acclaim- from his grammar school teacher.

"That's the first thing I wrote that made me proud," he said. "I folded and stapled the pages together, and I made crayon drawings to illustrate each poem and the cover. It gave me a real sense of accomplishment."

Peterson, an English professor and coordinator of Randolph's Creative Writing Program and the Visiting Writers Series, has come a long way since that first "book." He has published four full-length collections of poetry, four smaller collections, a novel, hundreds of poems in literary journals, and has had several of his plays produced. His latest poetry chapbook, The Resolution of Eve, was released in September and is a collection of poems based on the final engravings of Goya, a Spanish artist some consider the father of modern art. The second edition of his earlier award-winning collection, The Owning Stone, will be released in March.

"My journey has been a path of understanding myself first, then others-a spiritual journey of sorts, but not in the formal religious sense," Peterson said. "Pretty much all artists are on a journey like that. That's what draws us into the work and keeps us there. You can never get to the end of it."

An avid nature lover, Peterson practices meditation with his wife, Harriet, and often finds inspiration in the outdoors, whether he is commuting to the College on his bike, exploring Lynchburg's trails, or hiking in wilderness. He teaches his students that life experiences are the best place to seek creative energy.

His teaching philosophy revolves around sharing the experiences and insights of that journey. "To me teaching is not content oriented," said Peterson, who earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of South Carolina. "It's process oriented. I have to be making discoveries while I'm writing. I have to be doing what I'm teaching others to do. It's not about spouting wisdom. It's about seeing the truth about yourself and, therefore, hopefully about others, in the process."

While he finds satisfaction seeing his work in print, Peterson is more fulfilled by the work it takes to get to the final product.

"The journey itself is the heart of being a writer," Peterson said. "Publication is wonderful and makes you feel good. But it's not the most important aspect of writing. Even if you fail in the world's eyes, you still have the rewards of that inward resource."