Dean Rader is professor of English at the University of San Francisco where he held the National Endowment for the Humanities Chair. Rader's debut poetry collection, Works and Days won the 2010 T. S. Eliot Prize judged by Claudia Keelan (Truman State University Press, 2010). He has published widely in the fields of poetry, literary studies, American Indian studies, and visual and popular culture. He regularly contributes op-eds and book reviews to San Francisco Chronicle and blogs at The Weekly Rader, SemiObama and 52 Gavins. Read excerpts here and here.
This interview with Dean Rader about his poetry book Works and Days was conducted during the spring of 2011 by eight poets: Danielle Burhop, Aaron Delee, Dane Hamann, Sarah Jenkins, Anthony Opal, Christine Pacyk, C. Russell Price, and Lana Rakhman.
Q: When I first picked up your collection, before reading any of the poems, I made the connection between your title and Hesiod. In what ways did Hesiod's largely agrarian poetry influence this collection?
Dean Rader: I grew up in a farm town in Western Oklahoma. In fact, up until a couple of years ago, we still had a family farm, though neither my parents nor I worked the farm. But my grandfather did, as did his brother and, of course, their parents. Most of the economy in Western Oklahoma is farm-based, so I grew up smack dab in the middle of the culture, the patterns, and the values of farming. I was always very intrigued by Hesiod's Works & Days. It's a zany text. Rambly and a bit crazy. But, I loved how Hesiod's poem articulated this deep connection between farming, duty, and the divine. It was a trinity I related to on a profound level.