CLAS Acts March 2017
FROM THE DEAN'S DESK
I was looking at the homepage of our website and I had to marvel at all you are accomplishing—this is an amazing year! The New Music Ensemble has a video about its National Parks tour which reminds us not only of the importance of the NEA in bringing our students this wonderful experience of the parks (and bringing the parks this wonderful experience of our students), but also how artists’ documentation shares the beauty of their work with larger audiences. In this case too, it reminds us of the magnificent national legacy of the national park system.
Meanwhile, CLAS faculty were and are heavily involved in the vibrant series of lectures Democracy 101; STEM events were reaching out into the community, Faculty Council was holding fora and conducting elections; Lisa Feurzeig of Music and Dance has been selected for a Fulbright Award to Austria, Al Steinman won an award for environmental work, so many CLAS faculty were honored for their teaching and research at the Awards Convocation, an English major is working with refugee families, and an alumna of History has her dream job at the Smithsonian. Wow! Such was the news and events that appeared on the homepage just on that day, a snapshot that suggests so much more that recently happened or is happening right now. It shows that your work is both very current and profoundly enduring.
Behind the scenes it also testifies to hard and able work by unit heads who make an effort to promote the work of their faculty, alumni, and students. This in turn allows us to tell our stories, stories that the GVSU strategic plan urges us to tell ever more effectively. Sharing our stories with our constituencies, we know, improves the larger case we can make to the legislature, the public, granting agencies, accrediting bodies, and donors who play a role in our sustainability.
I’d also like to thank the Faculty and Staff Campaign volunteers in the units who are helping to provide their colleagues with information about the many funds that serve the campus community. Whether you support the CLAS Innovation Fund or a scholarship for majors in your unit, you are not only helping that cause, you’re also adding to a percentage total of faculty and staff support at GVSU that allows our development officers (including me) to paint a compelling picture of our institution as one that has the backing of its own people. Donors do ask, and I’m always pleased to have our story to tell.
The days are growing longer, and you know what an uplifting effect even a few moments of sunshine can have; may it be a reminder to you to let your light shine, not just because it helps us all to see more clearly, but maybe on a given day it will provide the warmth that your colleagues and students need to believe Spring is coming along with the accelerating weeks of semester’s end!
Amorak Huey and the Persistent Decision to Write
In this state we are not fit to judge
the motives of our neighbors
but we speak with great authority
on the nature of pleasantness,
well-made furniture, skinned animals.
There’s blood under the pine straw
of our history, bullet holes
in the city limits signs,
we created more perfect unions
then we laid everyone off.
My life here is my life here.
(Excerpt from “It Occurred to Me Today That I Will Probably Die in Michigan” by A.Huey)
“It is a long shot, and I did not expect to win,” explains Assistant Professor of Writing Amorak Huey. In fact, it was his fourth application for the prestigious Creative Writing Fellowship in poetry from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA). He persisted, and in 2017 became of 37 authors out of a pool of 1,800 to be named for this $25,000 award.
“I got the call in November after the election. The first time I saw the D.C. area code, I ignored the call,” he remembers with a smile. “When I did answer, the student editor of Fishladder was in my office and heard my end of the call.”
Amorak places the award in context. Writers outside of tenure track academic positions use this award for basic support.
“For them it is a matter of ‘now I can go to the dentist’,” Amorak explains. For him, this is far less about survival and more about the obligation it places on him to do something good. “It’s positive pressure to produce something really good.”
The affirmation of this NEA award begins with selection by nationally known poets and a lay person (a high school teacher) who chose his work from so many qualified applicants.
His plan is still coming together and may include buying some time away from his usual spring and summer teaching, traveling to a writing conference such as Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference or Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and buying books—he already has his eye on a series called Poets on Poetry. His efficiently stuffed bookshelves suggest a voracious reading appetite.
“Students found out about it from an article in the Lanthorn and were impressed that we have real, practicing writers here, not just ‘teachers’.”
He admits that his first three applications tried to guess what the judges might be looking for, but this most recent successful attempt was governed by his own favorites.
The excitement of the award has been channeled into his other work such as teaching sections of intermediate and advanced poetry and another on intermediate non-fiction. He also has two manuscripts seeking publishers and what he describes as 50% of another manuscript. He describes his current work as exploring parenthood, his fatherhood, and how it has changed him.
Amorak and his Writing colleague Todd Kaneko are finishing work on a textbook which they expect in 2018 (Bloomsbury Academic) with the expected title Poetry—A Writer’s Guide and Anthology. There is also a sabbatical proposal in the works; he has a novel in mind.
“The NEA does not write the poem for me; it just makes room,” he notes. “The advice I give to writers is that they have to decide to write. The world doesn’t care if they don’t write. They are the person that cares so they should not rely on external validation.”
To illustrate this sort of decision, he has been known to give students the assignment to write ten poems in two weeks.
Amorak Huey knows firsthand that you don’t always have the luxury of a writing ritual. “I’m coaching my son’s basketball team so my writing has to come around the edges of my life.”