Miscellany – July 15, 2020

James Bryant Reeves’ Godless Fictions in the Eighteenth Century: A Literary History of Atheismwas published on July 9, 2020 by Cambridge University Press. The book focuses on depictions of atheists and atheism throughout the Enlightenment era, arguing that imaginative, literary reactions against atheism helped sustain various forms of religious belief throughout the period. His recent article “Antislavery Literature and the Decline of Hell” was published in Eighteenth-Century Studies.

MATC graduate Michael Trice’s co-edited book Platforms, Protests, and the Challenge of Networked Democracy was published on July 8, 2020 by Palgrave MacMillan. Michael is a lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Writing, Rhetoric, and Professional Communication Program.

An interview by Jon Marc Smith and Smith Henderson about their upcoming novel, Make Them Cry,was published in CrimeReads. See full interview: https://crimereads.com/what-does-it-take-for-two-people-to-actually-write-a-novel-together/

Susan Morrison’s article “Marie de France’s Saint Patrick’s Purgatory as Dynamic Diptych” was published in Le Cygne: Journal of the International Marie de France Society. Her essay “The Body: Unstable, Gendered, Theorized” appears in A Cultural History of Comedy in the Middle Ages, edited by Martha Bayless.

Recent B.A. in English graduate Cole Plunkett was awarded a scholarship to attend the MFA in Creative Writing Program at The New School in New York City.

MFA poetry student James Trask’s poem “Springtime and Single Again” was awarded Second Honorable Mention for the 15th Mudfish Poetry Prize. This year’s contest was judged by Erica Jong. This poem and three other poems by James (“Things That Can Kill You,” “The Stories,” and “A Smear of Red”) were selected for publication in the forthcoming issue of Mudfish. “A Smear of Red” previously won both 2nd prize in this year’s San Antonio Writer’s Guild Annual Writing Contest and 2nd prize for this year’s Austin Poetry Society Award. James was also a finalist for last year’s 14th Mudfish Poetry Prize.

Dr. Luan Brunson Haynes, professor (1967-2008) and Chair of the Department of English (1972-83), has published Ktimene, an historical novel set in ancient Greece. Those who know Luan know of her deep love for Greece the place, its history, and its literature. Her novel presents the epic of Odysseus through the eyes and experiences of a woman, Ktimene. As per the official description: “The narrative of Odysseus and his adventures—the Odyssey—has been a staple of ancient storytelling for millennia, but now the account of his sailing the Mediterranean has a new version: a woman has sneaked on board, in disguise. Not just any woman, but his own sister. Based on research in Greece and other locations, Luan Brunson Haynes has given us more than a glimpse of the primitive world. She has written a lively and entertaining tale of the fearless and beautiful Ktimene and her family. Come along on her far-flung journeys as this Grecian princess learns from her various roles—wife, mother, trader, hostage, heiress, protector, storyteller, ruler—and watches her children grow up to travel the known world and beyond. Through the twists and turns of fate, Ktimene is indeed the founder of civilizations.” Contact Teya Rosenberg (tr11@txstate.edu) for more information.

Please submit all announcements to the English Department’s Miscellany Submission Form found here: https://www.english.txstate.edu/news/Miscellany-Submission.html

Miscellany – July 3, 2020

Cyrus Cassells’ poem, “Like Christ Overturning the Moneylenders’ Tables,” in praise of journalists, appeared recently in On The Seawall: http://www.ronslate.com/like-christ-overturning-the-moneylenders-tables/. Cyrus was also awarded the Civitella Ranieri Writing Fellowship, which consists of a residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Italy during the 2021, 2022, or 2023 season. Cyrus was awarded this residency through a highly competitive jury process that resulted in the selection of just 30 candidates from a pool of over 165. The Fellowship will provide Cyrus with six weeks to concentrate on his work in the company of other Fellows from around the world, and includes round-trip transportation to the Center’s 15th-century castle in Umbria, Italy, as well as a private space for living and working.

Rob Tally’s article “Spatial Literary Studies” appears in Literary Geographies: https://nam04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.literarygeographies.net%2Findex.php%2FLitGeogs%2Farticle%2Fview%2F215&data=02%7C01%7Csw13%40txstate.edu%7Cf58f93bca4654225ad1608d81142f62d%7Cb19c134a14c94d4caf65c420f94c8cbb%7C0%7C0%7C637278326575416307&sdata=bEdLizqIi%2F3OmRWe8dqeQwP4KwPTwikN3IsoYj8w1Qc%3D&reserved=0. His essay “Sea Narratives as Nautical Charts: On the Literary Cartography of Oceanic Spaces” appears in the Chinese journal Foreign Literature Studies; it is an extended version of the keynote speech he gave at Ningbo University last November.

Anthony Bradley’s essay “My Mother’s Guide to Video” appears in Gayly Dreadful: https://www.gaylydreadful.com/blog/pride-2020-my-mothers-guide-to-to-video.

An essay by Miriam Williams and Natasha Jones (Michigan State University), “The Just Use of Imagination: A Call to Action,” which is a response to recent events, was published by both the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing https://attw.org/publications/the-just-use-of-imagination-a-call-to-action/  and the Spark: 4C4Equality Journal(https://teacher-scholar-activist.org/) in June.

Two essays by MFA fiction student Nkiacha Atemnkeng have been accepted for publication by the South African literary magazine, The Johannesburg Review of Books.

Chase Vanderslice, an MA Literature student starting Fall 2020, has received a Texas State Graduate Merit Fellowship, a fellowship for incoming students of the highest caliber. Chase graduated from the University of Alabama with a BA in English in December 2019 and is interested in pursuing studies in Medieval literature.

Two poems by Steve Wilson, “What Isn’t There” and “Violently sundered,” will appear in Never Forgotten: 100 Poets Remember 9/11, coming out this fall.

Make Them Cry, the upcoming novel by Jon Marc Smith and his co-writer Smith Henderson, received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/smith-henderson/make-them-cry/

Rebecca Bell-Metereau and Steve Wilson have been elected to six-year terms as two of only four At-Large Members of the Board of Directors for the Texas Faculty Association.

MFA poetry graduate A.R. Rogers’ poem “Interior Decorating” was short-listed for the River Heron ReviewPoetry Prize.

 

Nita Novianti

“Every day I walked to campus I had to pass the river, the beautiful river, wearing my hijab. In the summertime, people would be sunbathing in bikinis. And here I was, walking among them fully covered head-to-toe, but nobody said anything.” With these thoughts, Texas State Alumna Nita Novianti reflects on her time at Texas State as a graduate student in the MA Literature program, expressing that her memories are of the kindness and acceptance that have extended beyond her time in Flowers Hall. From her current home on the island of Tasmania, she says, “learning [at Texas State] gave [her] so many invaluable experiences,” and that even when she felt like “an alien in the fields of bikinis,” she was reminded of how welcome she was.

Before walking her kids to school on an April morning earlier this year, Novianti relayed these fond and powerful memories from her experience studying at Texas State, while her children laughed and played behind her. She had been awake since the early hours of the morning, completing work on her Ph.D. in Education with a focus on teaching critical literacy through fairytales. Studying at the University of Tasmania, Novianti explains that the roles she balances each day — “a Ph.D. student, a mother to two children, a wife, a daughter, a lecturer for [her] University in Indonesia, and also a translator,” embody the global journey she has taken through her study of literatures in English.

After earning an undergraduate English degree from the Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (Indonesia University of Education) (her home country), she enrolled in Texas State’s graduate MA Literature program after being awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to support her studies. Her time at Texas State was her first time abroad, so choosing the right program to enroll in for her 2-year Fulbright Scholarship was important. Of her first experience corresponding with the English Department, Novianti fondly remembers that, after receiving a personal response – rather than an automated reply – to an email she sent asking about the program, she immediately thought, “I need to go there.”

Among the scholarly interests she explored at Texas State are postcolonialism and feminist literature, interests she attributes to her “background as a woman from a Southeast Asian country that was one of the colonized nations in Asia; I feel like this literature represents who I am.” She also notes the influence her children have had on her work, “I also love children’s literature, especially since I gave birth to my two beautiful children.” Initially, she says, children’s literature was not a topic she was particularly interested in, but “now [she is] in love with it.” Today, her interest in children’s literature is her main research focus for her current studies toward the Ph.D..

During her Master’s degree, she was able to explore her interests as well as investigate new ones. Realizing English literature was “even wider in scope than I thought,” she lists Chicanx and Native American literatures as examples of types of new texts she was exposed to at Texas State: “I thought [English Literature] was just, you know, canonized, white, male literature. I came to realize it is beyond that, so I felt enlightened in so many ways.” Expanding her exploration of English Literature with the Department’s faculty also brought useful challenges to the way she teaches, writes, and reads; she recalls in particular the support of several professors, including Steve Wilson, Robin Cohen, Nancy Wilson, Paul Cohen, Nancy Grayson, Daniel Lochman, and Rebecca Bell-Metereau.

Since graduating with her MA Literature degree in 2010, Novianti had the opportunity to discover a passion for teaching at the university level, using her graduate work to secure a Lecturer position at the Indonesia University of Education, where she was the first English Lecturer to hold an M.A. in literature. She notes, “many of the Lecturers graduated after studying English education, so I felt like it was a blessing.” She also works to share her passion for reading and the inspiration she gets from it by posting read-along videos to YouTube. Starting as an activity shared with her children, her videos allow her to share her storytelling and “the joy of reading” with as many people as she can. Maintaining the YouTube channel and her personal blog have since become some of her favorite hobbies.

Now living off the coast of the Australian mainland, she continues her global journey, as well as her study of literature: “It’s beautiful here…. I really like it. It kind of reminds me of Texas; the people are so bubbly here.” While maintaining her many roles, Novianti continues down the long road to her Ph.D. work, sharing that many of the skills she gained and experiences she had at Texas State were invaluable for success on the path she is now traveling.

 

–  Kennedy Farrell, English Major

Sigma Tau Delta Book Donations Support Universities in Togo

David Gilmour, U.S. Ambassador to Togo, presenting literature texts donated by Texas State University to Dr. Prosper Begedou (center) and Dr. Komi Avono (left).

 

At the start of each school year, professors clean their offices in anticipation of the fall semester, filing away old exams, completing reports and syllabuses, and clearing space on their shelves for new books. The used books they clear away are often collected by the English Department’s local chapter of the International English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta, for book sale events that raise funds for chapter activities and service projects. Regular book sales, sometimes themed for particular seasons, and book donations are part of Sigma Tau Delta’s goal of sharing books with everyone they can. According to Texas State’s webpage for the organization, Sigma Tau Delta claims one of its goals is to “exhibit high standards of academic excellence; and serve society by fostering literacy.” One of the specific service projects the Honors organization conducts to accomplish this goal is their book donation drive for the University of Lomé in the West African country of Togo.

Sigma Tau Delta donates yearly shipments to the University of Lomé, located in Togo’s capital city. English major and Sigma Tau Delta’s current Vice President, Caitlyn Wells, described her commitment to the project as well as her passion for sharing books and the joy of reading, stating the core purpose of the project is to “spread the love of books.” Wells explains that, for Sigma Tau Delta, “the main goal was to bring all of these English nerds together,” and that a group of people sharing their love of books with each other makes this particular project special and powerful. Honored to participate in this exchange, Wells notes that the students at the University of Lomé “are striving to get an education and if we could be just a small part of that, it’s cool.”

The donation program began with Dr. Komi Begedou, a faculty member from the University of Lomé who conducted research as a Fulbright Scholar in the English Department at Texas State from 2014 to 2015. Dr. Begedou explains the book drive program began in 2016 through coordination with his Texas State research mentors Dr. Elvin Holt and Professor Steve Wilson, along with the student members of STD, and has continued every year since, allowing University of Lomé’s students to “make good use of [the books] for their Master’s and Ph.D. research works.” Dr. Begedou and Sigma Tau Delta’s faculty advisors, currently Dr. Laura L Ellis-Lai and Mr. Chris Margrave, work together to coordinate the collection, packaging, and shipment of books from Sigma Tau Delta.

When Sigma Tau Delta prepared to ship donated books to Togo this past cycle, they had the opportunity to communicate with the graduate literature students there by exchanging videos through Facebook, insuring they could select books to better meet the Togolese students’ literature needs. The University of Lomé’s students requested texts on topics from civil rights, African studies, literary criticism, and dystopian novels to enhance their American Literature library, which was initiated in 2017 with the large first shipment of books from Texas State and officially opened by the David Gilmour, at the time the US Ambassador to Togo. These videos preceded the current COVID-19 pandemic, which suspended the organization’s operations and preparation of their book shipment. Sigma Tau Delta asks students and faculty who may have slightly used books they wish to donate to set these texts aside until the Fall 2020 semester, when operations will resume.

Dr. Begedou explains that a large donation this year would not only benefit the University of Lomé, but the University of Kara, the only other University in Togo, noting also that he “prays and hopes that this project will continue to the benefit of faculty and students in the English Department at UL.” Anyone who donates a book to STD makes a significant impact in improving the education of a student in the English Department in Togo while helping this wonderful relationship between Texas State and Togo continue for many years to come.

 

Kennedy Farrell, English Major

Miscellany – Jun 8, 2020

Aimee Roundtree’s article, “Student Recruitment in Technical and Professional Communication Programs,” written with Felicia Chong, was published on May 26 by Technical Communication Quarterly: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10572252.2020.1774660

Graduate Studies Director Teya Rosenberg sent congratulations to the twelve MA Literature students who graduated this spring and to the respective directors of their Area Exam or Thesis committees: Amber Avila (Banerjee), Anne Barker (Rosenberg), Justin Gorney (Wend-Walker), Nathan Hagman (Reeves), Lindsey Jones (Schwebel), Victoria Kuykendall (Schwebel), Logan McKinney (Smith), Kelly Porter (Smith), John Saldana (Gano), Katherine Stephens (McClancy), Abigail Taylor (Tally), and Devyn Vest (McClancy).

MFA fiction student Chisom Ogoke was selected as an Alternate candidate for the English Teaching Program coordinated by the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Cecily Parks’ poem “December” was featured on “The Slowdown” podcast: https://www.slowdownshow.org/episode/2020/06/01/396-december?fbclid=IwAR1jLP7y-qLwV-VFGIWY4ACxPI9X_O6lyAheyXkMoOXnCFN3fz1xDYs4DqQ

“Science and the Humanities in the Time of Pandemic: Better Together,” Coauthored by Jule McCormick Weng, Kathryn Conrad and Cóilín Parsons, appeared in the June 1 The Irish Times: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/science-and-the-humanities-in-the-time-of-pandemic-better-together-1.4261769

Several poems by MFA poetry student Anthony Bradley appeared in a recent issue of Bloop: https://www.grindrbloop.com/zine/2020/poetry-spotlight-anthony-isaac-bradley

An online magazine called The Nervous Breakdown is doing a special focus on Black poets this month and is featuring three of Cyrus Cassells’ poems — “Sin Eater, Beware,” “My Black Friend,” and “Sestina for Booker T. Washington” — from his forthcoming book, The World That The Shooter Left Us (Four Way Books: March 2022) on June 4, 6, and 8. Here is “Sin Eater, Beware”: http://thenervousbreakdown.com/ccassells/2020/06/sin-eater-beware/

On June 5, Steve Wilson’s “Restrictions” was the poem of the day at New Rivers Press: https://www.facebook.com/NewRiversPress/photos/a.135591973650/10157608236963651/?type=3&theater

MA Literature graduate and Lecturer Whitney May’s article, “The Lioness and the Protector: The (Post)Feminist Dialogic of Tamora Pierce’s Lady Knights,” has been published in this year’s volume of Children’s Literature: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/756798

Miscellany – May 23, 2020

The following faculty were recognized this May for major achievements during the 2019-20 academic year:

Rebecca Bell-Metereau. Transgender Cinema. Rutgers University Press, 2019.

Recipient of Choice magazine’s Outstanding Academic Title award.

Cyrus Cassells. Still Life with Children: Selected Poems of Francesc Parcerisas.

Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2019.

Cyrus Cassells. Recipient of Guggenheim Fellowship, awarded April 2019.

Jennifer DuBois. The Spectators. Penguin Random House, 2019.

Logan Fry. Harpo Before the Opus. Omnidawn, 2019. Recipient of Omnidawn’s 1st/2nd Book Prize.

Eric Leake. Recipient of Senior Fulbright Fellowship from the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. 2019.

Susan Signe Morrison. Recipient of two awards from Literary Classics, the Gold Medal in Historical Young Adult and Words on Wings Book Award, in 2019 for

Home Front Girl: A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing Up in Wartime America. Chicago Review Press, 2018.

Cecily Parks. Recipient of Poetry Society of America Lucille Medwick Memorial Award, 2019, for the poem, “The Rio Grande.”

Robert T. Tally, Jr. Topophrenia: Place, Narrative, and the Spatial Imagination. Indiana University Press (“Spatial Humanities”) series, 2019.

Julie McCormick Weng. Co-edited with Kathryn Conrad and Cóilín Parsons, Science, Technology, and Irish Modernism, Syracuse University Press, 2019.

Steve Wilson. The Reaches. Finishing Line Press, 2019.

Katie Kapurch’s “‘Photograph’- We Are All Ringo Now” (https://www.culturesonar.com/photograph-we-are-all-ringo-now/), “Astrid Kirchherr: What She Taught the Beatles” (https://www.culturesonar.com/astrid-kirchherr-what-she-taught-the-beatles/) and “Martha Wash’s “Love and Conflict” – The Album for 2020” (https://www.culturesonar.com/martha-washs-love-and-conflict-the-album-for-2020/)were published on CultureSonarrecently. Katie also has a chapter, “A Girls’ Studies Approach to YA Literature,” in Teaching Young Adult Literature, an edited collection published by MLA (2020).

MFA poetry student James Trask finished 1st and received cash prizes in two contests that are part of a series of annual contests administered by the Austin Poetry Society, each with different requirements for poetic form and/or theme.  Both poems will be published in the forthcoming edition (2019-2020) of Best Austin Poetry.  James also placed 2nd in five other contests, winning additional cash prizes.  In an eighth contest, his poem was distinguished with an Honorable Mention.

English Major Courtney Ludwick’s article, “A Dishonest Wardrobe: Fashion and Costume in Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘General Prologue,’” was published in Texas State Undergraduate Researchthis Spring. She was mentored by Susan Morrison.

“Rereading Stephen King on the Eve of My MFA,” an essay by MFA fiction student Steph Grossman, appeared in The Masters Reviewhttps://mastersreview.com/new-voices-rereading-stephen-king-on-the-eve-of-my-mfa-by-steph-grossman/

MA Literature student Luise Noé (Germany) was awarded a P.E.O. International Peace Prize Scholarship. She is one of 15 students on campus, one of 2 from the College of Liberal Arts. The scholarship, established in 1949, provides up to $12,500 of support for women from countries other than the United States and Canada who are pursuing graduate studies in one of those two countries. Luise worked on her application with the External Funding Specialists in the Graduate College.

Cyrus Cassells was interviewed by the Lambda Literary Reviewin support of the April publication of his new chapbook at Nine Mile Press, More Than Watchmen at Daybreak:https://www.lambdaliterary.org/2020/04/cyrus-cassells/. He was also interviewed as feature poet in the latest issue of Borderlands: The Texas Review: https://www.borderlands.org/featuredpoet?fbclid=IwAR09ZxhRb6KCfC26z5F3avVxsgOwGLLN7zi1cn1_-aQDBjN4jFJgSGj3gJw.

Jon Marc Smith was interviewed by Publishers Weeklyas part of a feature on new thrillers coming out in 2020: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/new-titles/adult-announcements/article/82768-border-disorder-mysteries-thrillers-2020.html.

Amanda Scott’s essay, “A Body in Crisis, A Magnificent Rapture,” will appear in Entropy.

Miscellany – April 23, 2020

MATC graduate Meghalee Das was awarded the Outstanding Instructor Award in First-Year Composition in the category of 1st Year Ph.D. Instructor by Texas Tech University’s Department of English. Meghalee is enrolled in the PhD in Technical Communication and Rhetoric Program at Texas Tech.

Rob Tally’s article “The Aesthetics of Distance: Space, Ideology, and Critique in the Study of World Literature” appears in the Journal of English Language and Literature.

Susan Morrison’s short story “FaceTimes” was published in Tejascovido:https://www.tejascovido.com/blog/facetimes. Susan was interviewed about the history of toilet paper for History.com: https://www.history.com/news/toilet-paper-hygiene-ancient-rome-china

On April 6, Nine Mile Books published Cyrus Cassells’ chapbook, More Than Watchmen at Daybreak. It’s available from Nine Mile Books (http://www.ninemile.org/) and Small Press Distribution (https://www.spdbooks.org/…/more-than-watchmen-at-daybreak.a…). Cyrus also recently published two new politically-inspired: “Quid Pro Quo (Two Baritones on a Phone)”

in The Southampton Review(on pp. 134-135) available to download for free:

https://www.thesouthamptonreview.com/subscribe/sf2020-digital-download; and “The Only Way To Fight The Plague Is Decency” in this On The Seawall: A Community Gathering of Writing and Commentary: www.ronslate.com

Passages Northjust published MFA fiction student Ben McCormick’s  “The Storms I’ve Been Before a Hurricane.”

Lagos Reviewpublished first-year fiction student Nkiacha Atemnkeng’s obituary essay, https://thelagosreview.ng/obituary-adieu-manu-dibango-nkiacha-atemnkeng/ about the death of Africa’s greatest saxophonist, Manu Dibango, the first high-profile musician to die of Covid-19.

Katie Kapurch’s “The Paul McCartney Song We Need Right Now,” which addresses this coronavirus moment, has become “the most popular post ever published” on CultureSonar, according to their statistics. You can read it here: https://www.culturesonar.com/the-paul-mccartney-song-we-need-right-now/?fbclid=IwAR2tMHbKBeyNmfQjEzjWUvm4Gp8PWZSx9UmtaU3ApGqr7WAxonCKtx1QaFY

Caleb Ajinomoh’s story “Rites Evasion Maneuvers” has been shortlisted for the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. The story was selected out of 5107 entries from five continents. Caleb is a first year MFA fiction candidate.

TA and third-year MFA fiction student Ryan Lopez has recently had two stories accepted for publication. “Return Flight” will be published in Lunate on May 25 and “The Solving of Climate Change” will be published sometime this fall in Abstract Magazine.

Lecturer Vanessa Couto Johnson has a poem–“mote”–in Across the Social Distances, an online journal for poems addressing the current crisis: https://acrossthesocialdistances.tumblr.com/post/615384149719678976/mote-by-vanessa-couto-johnson She also has another poem, “Self-Portrait of an INTJ reunited with inner-resilient-child in late March 2020,” in TEJASCOVIDOhttps://www.tejascovido.com/blog/self-portrait-of-an-intj-reunited-with-inner-resilient-child-in-late-march-2020?fbclid=IwAR3HbsAZFNibrKJ7qSub5XkyVn3xTS0ANyQIxEHRZRoBG6X40syD8FwM46M

Allison Grace Myers’ essay “These Thin Green Hints,” about waiting to adopt, has been published by Gulf Coast Journal:

https://gulfcoastmag.org/online/winter/spring-2020/these-thin-green-hints-20/

Dodgeball Days,” a poem by MFA poetry student Asa Johnson, appears in the Winter/Spring 2020 issue of Light.

Jo McIntosh, who earned her MA Literature degree at Texas State and now teaches at Concordia University (Austin), has been accepted and now funded for five years while she pursues her PhD in English at the University of Houston. To support her studies, Concordia is developinga package to put her on advancement in rank and give her a raise for a second car, gas, and books.

Graham Oliver

After planning to move to Taiwan with his wife, Texas State alumnus Graham Oliver found a teaching position at an elite, private high school in the capital city, Taipei. Teaching English Literature and Writing to 8th, 9th, and 10th grade students since June of 2019, Oliver says he “[has] a lot of freedom over what [he] choose[s] to teach.” This freedom allows Oliver to assign one of his favorite books as an interesting text for his students, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, while conducting his courses with a similar rigor to American universities.

Oliver earned his MA in Rhetoric and Composition at Texas State in 2014, returning immediately after graduation to enroll in Texas State’s MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) program and earning an additional Master’s degree in 2017. His love of writing, craft, and structure persists through his previous work as a tutor at the Writing Center, a Texas State Lecturer, and now as a high school English and Writing teacher in Taiwan.

Of his time at Texas State supporting writers in the Writing Center as well as lecturing in literature and writing courses, he claims the teaching preparation he gained in the English Department is his most valuable knowledge for teaching abroad: “anyone in the Department would, at the drop of a hat, help you with any kind of situation that you are having.” This generosity guided him when he began teaching and prepared him to address a variety of needs in a classroom, enabling him to adapt to new situations that still challenge him today in Taiwan. He reflects that the one-on-one instruction in writing he carried out with students in the Writing Center at Texas State remains among his favorite methods for interaction with his Taiwanese students, although this semester, Oliver is challenged by teaching through a mask during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Part of a foreign teaching program, Oliver works alongside mainly American and Canadian teachers. A normal day involves interactions with a variety of students and pursuing a number of interests and creative projects on campus. Typically, he stops at Starbucks for a coffee; teaches his classes; and then steals away from the communal office housing more than twenty instructors, opting to complete his work free of distractions and in an empty classroom.

After school hours Oliver likes to take advantage of the walkable city streets, using the Taipei 101 tower as his guide towards Wuxing, his favorite neighborhood just outside downtown. The neighborhood features some of his favorite comforts abroad: a farmer’s market of fresh produce, vegetarian food, and a small park. One of his favorite activities is to explore unfamiliar areas of the city with his wife – “sometimes we pick a subway station to go to explore” – an adventure that has led them to some of the best food and sights of the city. In addition to wandering the streets of Taipei and teaching his courses, Oliver has been studying Chinese and trying to piece together the elements of the language: “trying to learn a new language has made me use a completely different part of my brain. It’s sort of like having a jigsaw puzzle that you go add a couple of pieces to each day.” Pleasantly surprised by some of the words he has learned, he lists a few favorites: “good is woman and child; bread is the word for flour combined with the word for package; popcorn is written as the characters for exploding, rice, and flower put together.”

Oliver also notes that another of his hobbies while in Taiwan is baking bread, an activity he picked up in graduate school. Amid the stress of completing his Master’s degrees and the uncertainties of teaching, neither of which offers concrete immediate results, baking bread was a stabilizing activity to manage stress; “with cooking you have a final product … there is an end that is exactly what you’ve hoped for.” Now living abroad and teaching in an entirely new environment, he still bakes, though he also enjoys reading and playing video games in his free time.

While his main priorities now are teaching and adapting to life abroad, Oliver still investigates video game narratives as a scholarly research interest. Among his published works are two essays, including a personal essay in the Harvard Educational Review (2013) on his experience as a sixteen-year-old high school drop-out; and a peer-reviewed essay on storytelling in video games, “Renegade or Paragon?: Categorizing Narrative Choice in Video Game Storylines”, published in Dialogue (2020).

 

-Kennedy Farrell, English Major

Cyrus Cassells

“In my travels, I have often stumbled upon new, unexpected topics,” explains Texas State Professor of Creative Writing Cyrus Cassells, recounting the global journey he embarked on last year, supported by a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. According to the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, this fellowship is “intended for individuals who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.” The award is given to applicants from the United States and Canada, allowing artists and scholars to dedicate time to their work. An accomplished poet, Cassells often finds inspiration for his writing from “music and visual art, particularly painting”; and notes that he is “an avid student of history and languages,” a passion that accompanied him as he explored the cultural and geographic homes relating to his current projects. Spending much of his time abroad during his fellowship, Cassells visited such places as Spain, Italy, Mexico, and the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Cassells describes the effect “walking in historical places and looking at visual art” had on his writing, noting that travel is “always a great source of inspiration for [his] busybody mind and pen.” His inspiration from the arts shines through his selection of music and art as poetic sources. This is reflected in the title for his new volume, Dragon Shining with All Values Known, which is a line from the song “Trouble Child,” sung by Joni Mitchell.

Cassells says that his “Guggenheim project … explores poles of faith and politics” and includes a section inspired by his research on Father Damien, “a 19th century Belgian priest who worked in a leper colony [on Molokai].” Over the summer he spent exploring Europe, he went to “Rome for a month to look into the beatification of Father Damien, who is now Saint Damien.” This research informed his trip to the Hawaiian Island of Molokai, where he further studied the priest’s life. His writing and research supported a series titled “The Going of the Inland Soul to Sea,” included in his newest volume. Cassells’ interest in Father Damien’s work and legacy is reflected in his project’s focus “on the timeless influence of the 19th century priest … as his altruistic legacy pertains to the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.”

Over the summer months he spent in Spain and Italy working on these projects, he also completed a collection of poems that strays from his typical style and voice. The project is titled The World That the Shooter Left Us (to be published by Four Way Books in 2022) and explores the politically charged topics of gun violence and border issues, new subjects for Cassells. He explains the collection was his “response to the ‘Stand Your Ground’ killing of a close friend’s father and to the continuing detention of children in the border crisis.” This “new, overtly political mode” has been described by readers as “ferocious,” comprising the work in but one of the completed projects Cassells plans to publish after the experiences gained from his fellowship.

While abroad, Cassells often found himself writing in these new modes or surprised by the inspiration he found from his surroundings. His trip early in 2020 to Mexico City and Tepotzlan, Mexico, places he had visited before as a teenager, led him “by coincidence …  to staying with a documentary filmmaker, who lives directly behind the legendary blue house and museum of the great, internationally revered painter, Frida Kahlo.” This surprise in his travels developed into a rich cultural backdrop outside the window of his Mexico City writing desk: he “could directly see into Frida’s fabulous garden from my desk and bedroom window.” This exposure developed into an ongoing work for Cassells on Kahlo and her first love, Alejandro Gomez Arias, which he attributes to the proximity to Kahlo’s former home.

Among Cassells’ other current projects and travels are his exploration of New York City streets in his in-progress novel written in verse, called Reindeer in a Sunshine Land, and set in late 19th/early 20th century; and his two-month stay in Spain last summer to “work on a project related to Federico Garcia Lorca, the great Spanish poet and playwright (1898-1936).” Cassells also completed his first chapbook of poems during his fellowship, More Than Watchmen at Daybreak, which was published this April by Nine Mile Books and details his stay in a Benedictine monastery in New Mexico. He also signed a contract to publish Is There Room For Another Horse On Your Horse Ranch?, a finalist for the 2019 National Poetry Series Award; this collection will be published by Four Way Books.

Cassells’ Guggenheim Fellowship is only the most recent of the many prestigious awards he has earned, including the William Carlos Williams Award for his second collection of poems, Soul Make a Path Through Shouting (1994); a Pulitzer Prize nomination for the same title; and other fellowships including the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

 

 

-Kennedy Farrell, English Major

Miscellany – April 2, 2020

Chris Margrave’s short film, The Lesser Known Rules of Werewolves, which he co-wrote and acted in, was selected for screening at the South by Southwest Film Festival on March 14th.

Kathleen Peirce’s manuscript, Lion’s Paw, was a finalist for this year’s Dorset Prize with Tupelo Press.

Kitty Ledbetter’s article, “The Women’s Press,” has just been published in Volume 2 of the Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press, a three-volume history that offers a definitive account of newspaper and periodical press activity across Britain and Ireland from 1650 to the present day.

Longleaf Review published MFA fiction student Taylor Kirby’s essay, “Relics, Registries, and Other Bastard Things,” in their latest issue.

Make Them Cry, a novel by Jon Marc Smith and his co-author Smith Henderson, will come out this fall from Ecco: https://crimereads.com/excerpt-make-them-cry/

Caleb Ajinomoh’s short story, “Taking Mr. Itopa,” will be published in the New Voices section of The Masters Review. Caleb is a first-year MFA fiction student.

MFA poetry student James Trask placed 2nd and received a cash prize in the Poetry category of the San Antonio Writers’ Guild 28th Annual Writing Contest, an open competition with nationwide entries. This year’s contest was judged by Caitlyn Doyle.  James’ poem, “A Smear of Red” was written for Steve Wilson’s graduate Poetry Workshop last fall.

Susan Morrison recently was interviewed by The New Yorker’s Talk of the Town about toilet paper hoarding: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/03/30/what-would-freud-make-of-the-toilet-paper-panic?fbclid=IwAR1615G5QI4DDonXeAcy2GljwI0eFNz67Sm-Ix7z9SbTOGm-DeZLVJsKHtM

On March 18, PoemoftheWeek.com celebrated Cyrus Cassells’ The Gospel According to Wild Indigo, published in 2018 by Southern Illinois University Press.

MFA fiction student Clayton Bradshaw has accepted an offer of admission to the PhD in English program (Creative Writing) in the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi.