Student Spotlight: Hope Ruskaup

Portrait of Hope Ruskaup sitting on a stool

In this episode, hear from Hope Ruskaup a graduate student in both poetry and literature. Hope reads her poem, “It’s a Shame to Think That Spatially This Makes Any Sense,” then describes her approach to writing and how she’s working through two theses. 

Story Transcript

I'd like to think that all my poems sort of exist within this little, like world of their own, this like big house or something. I think a lot of my poetry sort of inventories things like little mundane things that you wouldn't always think about that are like just around you prevalent all the time. I think this is a good example of that, this poem’s called “It’s a Shame to Think That Spatially This Makes Any Sense”. 

It's a shame to think that spatially, this makes any sense. Don't worry. I find myself more or less a dying thing. Timing drops by the year full, nearly slipping once. In mourning, your head is a whole sink. One hundreds of things, things of failing measure. I can carry all my time allotted on this single pin, which is in every way, intended to impress you. Mark me unrecognizable as an orange, a near light to consume 20 times and vivid. Sky is only flat sky as land is milky flat. My whole brain repurposed as funeral, procession, a ceiling which droops in and therefore wrong. You love to pretend it's an un-watered kindness, lapping up to shore in some green bowl to reach me, we both know. If you wrap up my whole body in a giant towel, even still, it will not soften her, though I swore to cheer and cheer for it. You'll throw your sink, head back to laugh, spilling parts out negligible. No bowl will hold. At which point we revisit our agreement, that if body is a clock, then movement. Abashed is some attempt for unison made potable as wine or well-weathered challenge of force, some distant neighbor and the window constantly real pale is our pretended speech. You know, too, my need is some surrender that if I count back from an unclear Tuesday, I am again, the small room chipping air, like rock. 

My name is Hope Isabella Ruskaup and I am studying literature and also getting my MFA in poetry simultaneously. 

I'm kind of a collector. I, I'm a note taker. So, my writing process, sometimes it happens in an hour and sometimes it takes me two weeks, but I think it's just like, I'm sort of constantly collecting images and things and names and faces. And so, when I sit down to really like write a piece–which they rarely just flow out of me, usually it's pretty strenuous–it's sort of like you know, panning for gold, sort of like sifting through that stuff. And I think that as a by-product, that's why a lot of my poems are sort of about the everyday, about the home, about the mundane. 

I knew right away that I wanted to go into college to study literature. I had read some seriously moving texts, but these were like novels. This was kind of before I scratched the surface of poetry. Like, I can think of East of Eden by Steinbeck and All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren. So, I studied literature at the University of Colorado in Boulder. And yeah, I think it was really my undergrad graduate thesis that sort of affirmed the fact that I wanted to go to grad school. I did sort of like a multimedia dive into the representations of the war on drugs in the 1980s and the Reagan era. So, I was looking at like television shows, literary texts, films, like all sorts of stuff. And I think it was that sort of like sweeping dive that like, it was like the slow excavation to the realization that I needed poetics in my life. 

The MFA thesis is entirely separate from the MA thesis. I am currently in the phase of like, I have every poem I've written and I'm trying to like organize them into what could potentially be a manuscript for a book or a chapbook. Which sounds like, No, not that big of a deal, but it's like, it's seriously strenuous organizational work. And you know, it's really challenged me to think about the content of my poems and the commonalities between my poems. And I mean, you want to write a book of poetry, like you would write any other book, like some sort of arc is important. 

The MFA thesis is entirely separate from the MA thesis. So, I am currently in the phase of like, I have every poem I've written. And I'm trying to like organize them into what could potentially be a manuscript for a book or a chapbook. Which sounds like, No, not that big of a deal, but it's like, it's seriously strenuous organizational work. And you know, it's really challenged me to think about the content of my poems and the commonalities between my poems. And I mean, you want to. Write a book of poetry, like you would write any other book, like some sort of arc is important.  

And then as for the MA thesis, they give you two different options. You can either do a traditional thesis or you can do a portfolio option. So, for me that's looking more and more like a viable option because it turns out I used really similar, like theoretical scaffoldings for a lot of the papers here. You know, I relied pretty heavily on this book called Over Her Dead Body by Elizabeth Bronfman. That's a text about sort of femininity and death and aesthetics. So, I've worked pretty closely with that text and literature. And then also I've read a lot of geographical theory authors like Katherine McKittrick. So, I'm thinking that tracing those kinds of common threads and connecting the work I've done over the course of the last three years is going to be useful for me there too. 

There is a real sense of like writerly community in the university setting, but like also just in Missoula more broadly, like I could not be more thankful for ending up in a place like this, where the community really like supports writers, supports the arts. I think for me, graduate school has been about growth and been about processing and confronting the institution and how it shaped me and then wanting to like push the boundaries of that. I think that regardless of what I decide to pursue in the following years, like these are useful skills. The ability to communicate through writing is, it's invaluable.