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:


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.