See me after class

See Me After Class is a weekly column where a different professor reveals their variety favorites.

Dr. Boris Dralyuk is a presidential professor of English and Creative Writing in the College of Kendall Arts & Sciences. He is a critic, poet and translator who has taught Creative Writing and Poetry Writing courses on campus. He received his B.A. in Russian Language and Literature from the University of California Los Angeles. He continued his education at UCLA receiving his M.A. and Ph.D in Slavic Languages and Literatures.

What is your favorite book? What book would you say all undergrads need to read before they graduate?

It’s hard to pick a single favorite. But I would say probably the book to which I return most is a novel and verse by Alexander Pushkin called “Eugene Onegin” and probably the other book to which I return most frequently is the poem that inspired it which is Byron’s “Don Juan.” Those are my two most favorites but I wouldn’t recommend undergrads reading them for pleasure. There are so many books I would love for undergrads to read before they graduate. I would want it to be the most eye-opening, most stimulating book. So I would say one book that provides the most complicated and nuanced key to some of both psychological and social pressures that people of all kinds in the United States in the 20th century faced and still persist to this day is a crime novel set in Los Angeles called “If He Hollars let him go” by Chester Himes. I think that everyone would benefit because it’s not usually included in syllabi outside of very specialized classes in 20th-century African American fiction, 20th-century Los Angeles fiction or 20th-century crime fiction.

What’s reading like for you? Is there a specific setting, mood or drink set-up?

My favorite time to read is right before bed. I don’t get through much, but I tend to be most stimulated by the things I read if I read them right before I nod off. I probably can get through maybe a chapter of a novel or five to six poems before my eyelids get too heavy. But what I read stays with me. Sometimes it influences my dreams. I often find that if I read something stimulating and rewarding right before bedtime I have a better day the next day. So that’s my favorite time to read.

Is there a movie/show you always return to?

I’m a big fan of crime fiction. There are two films both set in Los Angeles one of them really high art the other one high comedy. They are both takes on the noir genre and I turn to them very frequently. One of them is “China Town” which is a stone-cold classic. It’s just one of probably the three best films produced in Hollywood of all time. The other one in my opinion, not far behind, is “ The Big Lebowski.” I return to it frequently because it corresponds to fond memories of my youth.

What was the last book/movie/show that you actually found funny?

Well, my wife and I are currently watching Palm Royal which is a series with Kristin Wiig and it’s genuinely funny. We are still halfway through but it’s very funny.

What is your favorite Tulsa restaurant? Do you have any food/restaurant routines?

Our favorite restaurant is India Palace. There’s nothing that is as reliable as India Palace. We know that we are going to have a good time if we go there or order in. My wife has been eating there since she was an undergrad at TU herself. So we now have something of a 25-year history with India Palace.

If you had to pick 3 songs for a playlist of your life, what would they be?

One would be Chet Baker’s rendition of “But not for me” and that a great response from an Angelino, I’m telling you it’s a great response. From an Angelino transplant to Tulsa because Chet Baker is originally from Oklahoma but made a story on Los Angeles. “But Not for Me” is a song by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin. There is just no better interpretation than Chet Baker who both sings and plays trumpet. I guess that would have to be my Jazz song. Let’s do rock and roll, “Water Loose Sunset: by the Kings. It is the most magical piece of competition in their repertoire. They’re just great composers in general, but it’s just a perfect little song about London. “Water Loose Sunset” is very nice. For the final song, I should go more peppy., It’s going to be “Shaboom Song” by the Chords. That’s peppy, although it is about a nuclear war but nobody knows that.

What is your go-to thing to do when you are not teaching or working?

It depends on how you define work because some of the things I do for work feel like fun. So I would say translating and reading are things that feel to me like I shouldn’t be paid for them. But I also love taking walks, especially in urban landscapes. I love taking walks along built environments — human built environments. Nature walks are always rewarding but the most rewarding thing for me is walking through the city.

Do you have interesting hobbies or likes that students wouldn’t expect?

I am not much of a hobby person. I used to have hobbies. When I was a child I used to collect stamps. The hobby’s called philately, it’s a nice name, isn’t it? I used to be a philatelist but I am not any longer. My wife collects and writes about postcards, she’s not a huge collector by nature. But she loves postcards, so she collects them. She would be an interesting person for this interview, I am not interesting at all. I like not to collect things, but look at and admire beautifully crafted small items like watches. I love to examine watches and intricately built minor masterpieces. Like little toys that are perfectly built. Especially little old tin toys, little tin cars and airplanes that were popular in the 40s and 50s. Just to see how well made and the care that went into making them.

Do you have any tips for students who would like to get into writing or new forms of writing?

That’s a great question. I think that if students who want to get into writing one tip I would give them is to encounter a work of art. Go to the Philbrook Museum or The Gilcrease when it reopens or observe closely one of the pieces of public statuary in Tulsa. See what thoughts and feelings these works inspire. Try to inhabit, for instance, the figures in the works of art either from the perspective of those figures or write out one’s feelings about that work of art. So, engage with art and write about it. That would be a great way of getting into writing. In terms of new forms, being inspired by the works of others, pick up an anthology and try to read an anthology of writing by a certain group of writers or just that takes stock of a certain era and try to read it slowly from front to back and see what leaps out at you and what connects with you. Ten of the poems you read at the start may say nothing to you but the 11th may grab you and give you a way into your own writing.

Post Author: Isabella Herrera