Faculty Profile: Matthew Cooperman

~From English Department Communications Intern Beth Campbell

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How would you describe you work in the English Department?
I teach mostly graduate courses, and every so often an undergraduate course. I usually teach creative writing, poetry, and ecopoetics.

What brought you to CSU?
I came to CSU in 2003. I grew up in California, but I came to the University of Colorado in Boulder for my undergraduate degree. I taught there for a bit and eventually my career led me here.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I enjoy working with the students. You all have such intelligent and well-formed ideas and I like helping students reach their full potential.


Why are the Humanities important?

We need to be able to think for ourselves as well as become well-rounded individuals in today’s society. The Humanities help us express emotion and what our existence really is. That is what helps us define our own ideas and form our own opinions, and the Humanities are essential to that.

What inspired you to pursue a degree in English, the Humanities?

It’s very personal for me. I had great English teachers who inspired me and pushed me, and I wanted to pass on that gift. It goes back to why the Humanities are important. Literature and writing the portal to a complete understanding of the world. I wanted to help show students what a gift that can be.


What had the greatest influence on your career path?
Working with great teachers and students. It drives me to think about how I am living my life and how I can model a thinking life, where we are always learning and pushing forward to a new level of understanding.

You recently had a book of poetry published. How did that book come about?
It was actually started years ago when I married my wife, although I had no idea what it would become at the time. We were on our honeymoon, and I was running out of room in my notebook, so to save space, I started writing poems with just three words in a line so I could fit more on a page. Eventually that form became something to shape and play with. It took on a more formal measure as I kept writing in it. It has a kind of feral intensity, what with being so brief on each line. There is no room for extra useless words. It was all about compression, like how the architecture on the cover of the book is brief and compact, but still flowing and emotional. The topics are more domestic, since I was writing it as my family was growing and we were settling into our home. My daughter was born with severe medical issues, so for the first few years of her life, I wrote to escape. It makes you creative in times of distress. The book became my refuge and over time, it shaped itself. I’m pleased with out it turned out.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?
(laughs and smiles to himself) I wanted to be an astronomer. I thought it would be about looking at stars and planets, but then I found out it was all about math and numbers and equations. Writing has always been there in the background for me, though. It made sense when I decided to try that instead.

When you’re not working, what do you do?
I spend time with my family. I have two kids, and my beautiful wife is the Poet Laureate of Fort Collins, so we go out to readings and sometimes go hiking together. I like being outdoors. I also like cooking. I was a chef for a time, so I enjoy going back to that, even if it’s just for dinner.

What don’t your colleagues know about you?
They probably don’t know I was chef, or about my list of 14ners. I want to complete them all, but I’m only about halfway right now.

What is your favorite word and why?
Sublime. It’s a very misunderstood word. We think sublime means “beautiful” or “stunning,” but it really means “below ground.” It means that something is so terrible and beyond words that it practically has to be buried in the earth to escape it. Yet we never use it to mean that.

What is the one thing you dream of being able to accomplish in your tenure at Colorado State University?
I would like to continue the Creative Writing program here, maybe get more funding for it for we can allow it to grow to its full potential. I also want to see a greater community dialogue between not just the different departments, but also the different colleges as a whole. We are a great university, but we need each other to really grow.

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