It would seem that I have never left the educational womb.
After having graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point in 1970, I taught high school English in Chilton, Wisconsin, for eight years. I left Chilton to attend the University of Minnesota, working as a Teaching Associate while earning an M.A. and Ph.D. in English. Then a year as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Iowa State University, followed by twenty-seven years at Graceland University, a small liberal arts college in a small southern Iowa town. I taught American Literature, Technical Writing, Modern Rhetoric, Linguistics, and Mass Media. For twelve of those years I served as the Chair of the Humanities Division. I retired in 2015 and have now, like Rip Van Winkle, “arrived at that happy age when a man can do nothing with impunity.” If only! I am too easily shanghaied by miscellaneous enthusiasms to do nothing. And besides, my wife Kathy simply wouldn’t stand for it. Should I need motivation, she can be endlessly accommodating.
During most of my years at Graceland, my writing was primarily scholarly, with some two dozen articles on a variety of Puritan, American Renaissance, and Native American authors published in academic journals. I left that kind of writing behind about five years ago. The impetus to do so came from a student in my upper-division Multicultural Literature seminar. We were discussing Esperanza’s run-in with the severe Sister Superior in Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street. I mentioned that I had attended a Catholic elementary school staffed by Dominican nuns–imposing women, I told them–whose governing assumption was our always being one nanosecond away from some undisciplined gratification or other, and whose governing principle was to promptly preempt even the faintest gesture toward what appeared to be an illicit impulse. In a cage match between Sister Superior and any one of the Dominican sisters I’d had, I asserted, Sister Superior would be headed for a smackdown. After I related a few of my experiences, one of my students said, “You should write about those sisters.” “Maybe I will,” I replied. And over mid-term break I did.
Since then, I have devoted a great deal of time to writing. Personal essays, mostly, focusing on my experiences of and reflections on the way of things. I like words. I am an unapologetic wordie. I like words that clamor and innuendo, holler and hint. I mash-up words, a lot, to say what I mean. I don’t like linguistic nearliness or in-partness or almostness. I like to put words together in sentences that rhythm, chant, melody, hymn, tumble, slolom, gambol, amble, and gallop. I like sentences that put language and thinking on a hailing frequency. I try, anyway. To essay means to try, after all. Some of my tries have been published in online magazines like Fictionique, Punchnels, and The Smart Set.
I hope you like my tries in hREALITY Land.