I grew up in a small town on the plains of western Oklahoma near the banks of the Cimarron River, near where my father's parents and grandparents homesteaded early in the last century. Winters are cold and dry there, but relatively short; springs are exciting with their new growth and the frequent eruptions of tornadic thunderheads; summers are hot and dry, of course, but full of long evenings lit up by sunsets that look like they've been painted by some overzealous child artist; and autumns, once past the heat of summer, are long and mild--every season lots of sun, breath-taking winds, and of course enormous skies, which can make you feel either liberated or oppressed depending on your psychology. But even if as a child you found them oppressive, as I did (in retrospect), you can still, in adulthood, maybe, find them uplifting, which can help you overcome your estrangement from the political conservatism there.
I took a B.A. in English and Philosophy from Oklahoma State University in '79 and then worked odd jobs for a while--dishwasher, waiter, liquor store manager, secretary at a social services office in Boulder, Colorado--before returning to school to study more literature, philosophy, and creative writing. But that took a while too, before providing a settled life, a year in this graduate school, another in that. Then I came to Ithaca and fell in love with the place--so many trees!--and particularly the M.F.A. program I was in at Cornell, happy to be studying with poets Archie Ammons and Robert Morgan. After taking my degree in '82 I taught at Cornell for two more years and then roamed around the Northeast, teaching here and there--Hudson Valley community colleges, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute--before coming back to Ithaca to take a position in the Writing Program here and to settle down with my family. I'm proud to have been a part of our faculty in the 90s that molded from the clay of our Program a bona fide Department, and to now offer a B.A. as interesting and varied in its offerings as ours is.
I've discovered over the years that my ultimate goal in teaching is to instill in my students an intellectual generosity, I would like to think mostly by modeling that generosity myself, to be less interested in espousing knowledge per se than in encouraging the adoption of a particular attitude toward knowledge, expansive and open-armed. I teach a variety of courses: a freshman seminar on the philosophy and science of sex and love; personal essay writing; poetry writing; a 300-level Poetics course that covers the history of ideas from Thales to Foucault through the lens of creative writing theory; a senior seminar workshop on the practice, history, and theory of traditional poetry forms; and two honors seminars, one on the philosophy of sex and love and the other on the pursuit of happiness.
My two most recent collections of poems--Poems 1986-1998 and A Million Bells (2005)--are from Water Street Press. My first collection, A Warm Trend, won a national manuscript competition from Swallow’s Tale Press. My poems have appeared in Bomb, The Chattahoochee Review, West Branch, Northwest Review, and Postmodern Culture, among others; and more recently in The Fiddlehead, The Antigonish Review, The Pedestal, Rosebud, Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry, and Sentence: a Journal of Prose Poetics. I have also recently published two essays on philosophy and literary theory, one scholarly ("Notes on the Role of the Arts...") and the other meditative and humorous ("On Thinking").
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- poetry writing
- essay writing
- literary and creative writing theory
- M.F.A. Poetry, Cornell University, 1984
- B.A. English and Philosophy, Oklahoma State University, 1979
Some Recent Publications
- The Fiddlehead (No. 247, spring 2011 & No. 234, winter 2008)
- Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry (spring/summer 2011 & spring/summer 2008)
- The Antigonish Review (winter 2011 & winter 2007)
- Sentence: a Journal of Prose Poetics (No. 8, 2011)
- arroyo Literary Review (No. 247, spring 2011)
- The Pedestal Magazine (spring 2007)
- "On Thinking," a playful philosophical meditation, in the 2007 issue of Diner. [This essay is also available in the "Documents" section of the sidebar, under "Sample Prose."]
- "Notes on the Role of the Arts in a Technocratic Culture: An Argument for a Poetry and Literature of Political Integrity" appeared in the fall 2006 issue of The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge, and Society. I presented it at two conferences, The 2nd International Conference on Technology, Knowledge, and Society, in Hyderabad, India; and the 22nd Annual Meeting of the International Association for Science, Technology and Society, in Baltimore. [For free access to this essay, go to "Documents" in the sidebar and download it from "Sample Prose."]