Dr. Robert Deluty truly is a busy man. He is the Associate Dean of the Graduate School at UMBC, has been teaching psychology at UMBC since 1980 and he was named Presidential Teaching Professor in 2002. Along with his obligations at UMBC, Deluty and his wife Barbara parent their two children, Laura and David.
All of these obligations, and yet Deluty has found the time and energy to publish 50 full-length books of poetry in the past 23 years. When asked how he ever has the time to be such a prolific writer, he paraphrased the words of physician and poet William Carlos Williams, “I write in the cracks, a moment here, and a moment there.”
Deluty has been producing scholarly writings since his time as a graduate student. His first piece, an article based on his Master’s thesis, was published in 1979. However, Deluty did not begin to write stories and poems until 1992. “My poetry writing was first triggered by the imminent arrival of my son, whom we adopted from Korea. The idea of being a father of a son reminded me of various memories and stories about my father. I shared one of these stories with my wife, who suggested that I should try to publish it.” Deluty ended up sending the essay to the “Baltimore Evening Sun,” which published it in their Father’s Day Op-Ed section.
Deluty chooses to write the vast of majority of his poems in senryu form, a form he learned about later in life after his formal schooling. “Senryu are basically the first cousins of haiku. They both essentially capture the essence of specific moments in time. Haiku traditionally deal with the natural world, things like flora and fauna. Being from the Bronx, I don’t know very much about flora or fauna. Senryu deal with interpersonal and intrapersonal experiences and are typically ironic, satiric or poignant — things that I deal with every day as an associate dean, professor, husband, father and practicing clinician. I write about family relationships, students, faculty, romance, mortality, psychiatric and physical illness, and the like.”
Deluty, in addition to using senryu for its focus on human experiences, enjoys it for its brevity. The typical senryu is seventeen syllables or fewer. “I’ve always been drawn to getting the biggest bang for the buck and being parsimonious in my writings. This also goes for the clinical interventions that I do: I try to be very cost-effective with my clients. If a certain phrase or word isn’t necessary in getting your point across, I don’t include that phrase or word.”
This sparse style of poetry, which is meant to capture human moments, carries over into Deluty’s daily life. “I keep a paper and pen on hand nearly all the time. Whether I’m waiting for a meeting, waiting for my next client, at a stoplight or walking across campus, I’ll just jot down my thoughts or an interesting snippet of dialogue that I overheard. By the time my day is over, I’ll have pieces of paper and post-it notes filled with words, associations, observations and ideas that I could work into full poems at some point.”
Some of Deluty’s wisdom regarding writing can also be taken as life advice. “Make use of all your senses. Be in the moment, and be aware of what you’re seeing and hearing. There are so many fascinating things going on all around you. Often, when we are out and about, we are zeroed in on our destination. We are not aware of the wonderful and insightful little stories going on around us.”
Dr. Deluty’s most recent collection of poetry, “On The Tightrope,” was published in early January. It is now available for purchase in the UMBC Bookstore, along with his other 49.