Peter Payack

Assistant Professor
617 747-8444
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  • Career Highlights


    • B.A., Catholic University of America
    • First Poet Populist of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2007–2009
    • Adjunct visiting lecturer at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell
    • Former visiting artist at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • Poet and author of 15 books, including No Free Will in Tomatoes and Blanket Knowledge, published by Zoland Books
    • Former visiting artist, Harvard University
    • Listed in Marquis Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the World

In Their Own Words

"In my writing courses, I tell my students that the book we use is the book of their lives. I make them delve into themselves and write about personal experiences they felt changed them. I want my students to learn something about themselves that will help them make decisions in their lives. I want them to remember why they're at Berklee, and to remember that being creative is a gift to be thankful for and nurture. It's like a little fire that you have to take responsibility not to let go out."

"A lot of students come to Berklee with the idea that they are very good at music but just okay in other subjects, so I'm trying to push their creativity beyond the musical world. I'll ask students to give me a list of, say, five songs that have been instrumental in their growth, and write a paragraph about each song. In class, we'll play everybody's top song on YouTube, then students get to ask each other why they picked it. So that takes them from music, to writing, to all talking to each other."

"I'm trying to make my students see that writing is just another aspect of their lives. I start with the common threads that we're all human beings, and that the language of music and creativity is a common language that ties us together. I show them that writing is just a different way of expressing creativity, on a piece of paper with words in logical sequence that are grammatically correct."

"When I grade papers, I'm looking for students to be honest and introspective. In one sense it's easy for them to write about themselves, because they're writing about something that they know. But it's hard in the sense that it's personal. Sometimes when assignments get really introspective and students are reading them out loud, they can get very emotional—but the rest of the class becomes very supportive."

"I have people from all over the world—Serbia, Israel, South Africa, Dubai, the Dominican Republic—writing from their experiences. As they are telling something about themselves, they're also telling something about their culture. But they're always surprised that they've had many of the same experiences. And they're always surprised that they can write."

"The body of work I teach from is based on what I've learned as a teacher, a poet, a writer, and a creative person who feels like we're all part of one world community. I think it's important to find commonalities with people we work with and not look just at the things that separate us. So I try to create a classroom environment in which we can all know each other, and build upon that."