Current title: Instructor of English, Point University
Recent Accolades: Recent work includes poetry in The Painted Bride, Harpur Palate, Portland Review, Tampa Review, Canary Magazine, Town Creek Poetry, Cumberland River Review and others; awards such as the Robert Hughes Mount, Jr. Poetry Prize; an article on W.S. Merwin’s recent poetry collection, The Shadow of Sirius appearing in Merwin Studies; book reviews in Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Valparaiso Poetry Review; and a collection of poetry, Live at Lethe
How did Montevallo affect your career choice?
My time at Montevallo opened me up to a world of possibilities. As a freshman, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I did know that I wanted to pursue an interest in literature. I didn’t go to college because I wanted a job. Rather, I went because I wanted to learn and grow. My time at Montevallo kindled those interests; the rest followed. I first discovered a calling to teach while taking part in class discussions in literature and philosophy courses. Exploring the beautiful spaces on campus and in the surrounding area definitely contributed to my writings about the natural world. Places like Orr Park, Falling Rock, Ebenezer Swamp, the Slab and Shoal Creek have all appeared in my poems.
Another experience that positively affected my academic life was working in the campus library. Being around all the books and the wonderful people at Carmichael only fueled my bibliophilia. I knew I wanted to do something that would keep me reading and learning. Finally, spending time with a peer base that shared my interests refined my thinking. As a matter of fact, Kudzu House Quarterly is the product of Montevallo alums who all shared an interest in writing and environmental thinking.
What aspects of your education at Montevallo prepared you to become an author?
So many of my experiences as a student at Montevallo contributed to my interest in writing. Courses in creative writing, literature and philosophy were essential to the development of my writing life. My education prepared me for the creative and critical thinking that I am required to do on a daily basis. The background in research and critical thinking that I received was vital to the diverse kinds of writing that I want to do. To me, writing only matters if it comes from both a need and an interest. My education helped me to understand why writing mattered, and that included what it means to need to write.
Words of wisdom you would offer current students: Put yourself out there. If it is applying for a job or sending out work, don’t hesitate. John Berryman once told W.S. Merwin to paper his walls with rejection slips, and I think that was wise advice. My experiences as a writer and an editor have shown me that persistence pays. Don’t let rejection or criticism (or the fear of either) keep you from writing and sending out your work. When a manuscript comes back, remember that there are always more opportunities. Any small accomplishments I have made have come with plenty of all that. And don’t be afraid to fail, either. Billy Collins said that “everyone is born with about 300 bad poems in them.” When I look back on some of my first poems, I laugh a little bit, but that doesn’t mean I’m not glad, even proud, that I picked up the pen and wrote them.
Who would you like to thank for your success?
There is a long list of people who deserve thanks for contributing time and energy toward my growth as a writer and thinker, but I would have to start with Lee Rozelle. From my introduction to the major class with him until today he has mentored me and supported my work. Likewise, Jim Murphy, Michael Patton, Stefan Forrester, Betsy Inglesby, Glenda Conway, Kelly Wacker, Kathy Lowe and many, many others all played their parts in shaping the way I think and write.
What was your favorite aspect of Montevallo?
I met my wife Jane while studying at the University of Montevallo. She was majoring in English and history, and we hit it off discussing the literary canon. I’m convinced that without the oratory finesse I gained from studying the humanities — and a couple of those poems I memorized for Jim Murphy’s class — I couldn’t have ever pulled that off.