Sheridan Hough on poetry and the difficulties of being a woman in the field of philosophy
Sheridan Hough is a philosophy teacher, wife, published poet and magazine editor. She wears many hats, and they all seem to fit. She sat down with Charleston Scene and dished on two of her loves: writing and philosophy.
Hough's books can be found at Blue Bicycle Books on King Street as well as online booksellers such as Amazon. On May 6, the poet will be doing a reading with the Litchfield Tea & Poetry Series 3-4 p.m. at the Waccamaw Higher Education Center on Pawleys Island.
Q: You teach philosophy at the College of Charleston. How does teaching affect your writing?
A: All of my writing projects get fed in the classroom. My lectures are one form of composition, and then the discussions that follow become terrific material for everything. But I also get ideas for my novel characters, for short stories and for poems while I'm engaged with my students. And I must tell you that the silence during an exam is the most rapt, velvety-breath-held quiet there is; I love to compose poems while I'm giving finals.
Q: You were the first woman to reach the rank of full professor in C of C's department of philosophy. Why do you think that this field is typically a man's game?
A: That's a tricky question. The discipline of philosophy is still a fiercely defended male enclave. The situation continues to improve, but we do have a long way to go. When I entered the philosophy graduate program at the University of California, Berkeley, I was joining the most diverse group ever admitted to the program (four men, four women; one African-American, one Hispanic, one from Iceland and me, from suburban Texas). Three of us made it to graduation, and I was the lone female. As for the larger picture, about 17 percent to 30 percent of all working philosophers are women. I hasten to add that my colleagues here at the college have always been wonderfully supportive of me and my work. I now have two other terrific female colleagues, Deborah Boyle and Jennifer Baker.
Q: Tell me about your recently published collection of poems, "The Hide."
A: "The Hide" is in two parts: "Skins" and "Sanctuaries"; the "Skins" are poems about the kind of personae we adopt as we make our way in the world, and the "Sanctuaries" are poems that survey the places where we feel safe, and what indeed constitutes this sense of safety.
This collection had a funny start in life: I was invited to read two of these poems at a gathering in 2005, and I got lots of praise and encouragement -- and this after I was caught hiding my poems under the couch, hoping that I wouldn't have to read them!
Q: You're the editor of Cheek. Tell me about this publication.
A: Cheek the magazine is the latest incarnation of a newsletter that I started for (what was then) Women's Studies in 1997. Over the years, everyone in the program decided that we needed to have something a bit glossier and more formal. The newsletter The Forum always ran terrific articles, but the format had its limitations; the new magazine style can showcase these pieces with great artwork and graphics. The next issue will be out in the fall of 2010.