Department of English Newsletter: September 2018

in this issue

Letter from the Chair/ Faculty: Bob Wallace and Bits Press/Faculty Notes/Books@Work/Alumni News/Wayzgooz (a printer’s celebration)

Department Welcome Party July 2018

Letter from the Chair

Dear Friends of English,

It was heartening to see on display at this fall’s CWRU Convocation the prominence of English as a disciplinary pursuit. Not only was this year’s Elaine G. Hadden Distinguished Visiting Author, Sarah Kay, a Brown University English Major and MA in Teaching Secondary English who went on to become a national best-selling poet, but Maya Rao, President of the Undergraduate Student Government, specified in her introductory remarks to Kay’s address, how her CWRU Minor in English helped get her to the point where she could stand comfortably on the stage and speak articulately, write effectively, and communicate the knowledge and experience that public life requires. To cap it off, Rao’s remarks were immediately followed by the awarding of Distinguished University Professor to Thrity Umrigar, an international best-selling novelist, literary scholar, and public intellectual from our department. Thrity was the first of only three faculty members from across the university to be given this prestigious recognition, the highest honor that the University bestows upon a member of its professoriate.

That moment captured to a large extent how productive we have been this year. There were other significant awards. David Lucas, a SAGES Lecturer in the English department, was named Poet Laureate of the State of Ohio in January. William Marling received the College English Association of Ohio’s Nancy Dasher Award for an Outstanding Publication in Literary Scholarship and Criticism, and Robert Spadoni, our film professor, won the Carl F. Wittke Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, presented annually during May Commencement to two faculty members who have demonstrated excellence in undergraduate teaching. Our scholarly production was also notable. Collectively, over the last 12 months we published more than 30 essays, short stories, and works of poetry with publishers such as Cambridge University Press, Routledge, PMLA, New England Review, Potomac Review, Newsweek, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. We have given over 50 presentations at institutions and conferences ranging from the Conference on College Composition, the American Society for Bioethics, the University of Dayton, the German Association of Teachers of English, the National University of Ireland, the International Conference on Narrative, the City Club of Cleveland, and ideastream’s The Sound of Ideas.

Our students are paying attention. We have seen a 4th consecutive year of growth in declared majors and credit hours taught in English courses. Our literature, film and creative-writing programs continue to grow. A generous donation has allowed us to start two funding programs for our undergraduates to pursue unpaid summer internships and scholarly research projects. Our graduate students have taught an increasingly diverse array of courses at the University, completed cutting-edge Doctoral and Master’s theses, and landed a variety of rewarding jobs in and out of academia. Participation of our lecturers in SAGES, Engineering, and English as a Second Language continues to be a crucial component of our curricular efforts at the University. Our Colloquium series has become even more robust, hosting exciting speakers and drawing larger and larger audiences. Bellflower Hall continues to blossom as the location of Writers House (our still relatively young university-wide hub centered on the act of writing in all its variety), as well as the continuing home of the Writing Resource Center—pivotal elements of our departmental enterprise. This year, to complete our ownership of the building, we have secured the 3rd floor of Bellflower and will soon be using it for teaching, programming, and outreach initiatives. It will now complement our recently rehabilitated home in beloved Guilford House.

From Convocation to Commencement we had a very good year.

Chris Flint

Faculty of the Past: Bob Wallace and Bits Press

Robert A. Wallace
b. 10 January 1932, Springfield, Missouri
d. 9 April 1999, Cleveland, Ohio

Robert Wallace graduated summa cum laude with a BA from Harvard University in 1953, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. From 1953-55, he completed a BA with honors from Cambridge University, with the support of a Fulbright grant. He was granted an MA from Cambridge in 1959. Following a period of service in the United States Army (1955-57), Wallace assumed a series of academic appointments at Bryn Mawr, Sweet Briar, and Vassar Colleges. In 1965 he joined the faculty of Western Reserve University.

Wallace’s teaching covered an unusually wide range, from English 257B: Poetry for People Who Don’t Like Poetry to graduate seminars in writing poetry. He also taught upper-division courses in modern poetry and contemporary poetry, and – beginning in the mid-1970s – English 378: Poetry and Printing.
The latter course marked a turn in Wallace’s career when, in 1974, he developed interests in small-press publishing. He purchased a Chandler and Price platen press that he installed in a closet in the basement of Clark Hall, which he dubbed “The Gutenberg Annex.” The work that emerged from the English Department’s Annex he deemed “Bits Press” products. As Wallace’s work with the press developed, the Annex migrated to his home on Kenilworth Rd, where he acquired additional presses, including a large Vandercook 4. Bits Press notably published the semi-annual Bits (running to the turn of the 1980s and devoted to poems of twelve lines or fewer), several issues of Pieces (devoted to short prose), and a number of one-off publications, including The Complete Poetical Works of T. E. Hulme (edited by Wallace) and work by John Updike, with whom Wallace was an undergraduate at Harvard. Bits Press also regularly included student publications, including the early Patch Work (1975) and Dragon Feathers (1976). On the strength of Bits, Wallace coordinated campus readings by poets such as Mary Oliver, Richard Wilbur, S. J. Kennedy, and Updike. Wallace also handled editing and production of Bellflower Press, which (under the direction of Roger Salomon, Gary Lee Stonum, and William Siebenschuh) published some notable academic monographs from 1979-1986. Most locally, Wallace printed covers for What’s Afoot, the semesterly collection of English Department course descriptions. In later years, Bits Press migrated to commercial offset (and offsite) printing, with mass-produced annual compilations of light verse titled Light Year (1984-89) reaching a very wide range of readers.

Wallace’s primary publications included This Various World and Other Poems (1957), Views from a Ferris Wheel (1965), Ungainly Things (1968), Swimmer in the Rain (1979), Girlfriends and Wives (1984), and The Common Summer (1989). Bits Press produced his Critters (1978), Charlie Joins the Circus (1979), and The Author: A Poem (1983). His poems appeared in such places as The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Kenyon Review, Poetry, The Antioch Review, and The Nation. He was a 1969 recipient of the Cleveland Arts Prize in Literature; he also garnered awards from the Poetry Society of America and the Virginia Quarterly Review. He held a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship early in his career, and received individual grants both from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council – with an additional six grants awarded from the Ohio Arts Council to Bits Press.

Wallace was devoted to bringing poetry to a broader audience. For two decades, he was a staff reviewer for the Book-of-the-Month Club. For an even longer period of time, he was a participant in the Ohio Poets in the Schools program. He taught in the continuing education program at Case Western Reserve University, served as an AP reader for the Educational Testing Service, and wrote energetic proposals for grant funding for a program he designed – endorsed by a number of suburban Cleveland elementary schools – to work with teachers to teach poetry to young students using experimental materials. With Professor James Taaffe, Wallace co-edited Poems on Poetry (1965). Later, he wrote the staple of so many workshop courses in colleges and universities, Writing Poems (now in its eighth edition).

Robert Wallace died in April 1999 and is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland. A correspondent of William Carlos Williams, T. S. Eliot, and Philip Larkin, among others, Wallace’s archive – including the records of Bits Press – has been maintained by the Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University) since 1985.

Entry by Professor Kurt Koenigsberger, from records in University Archives, CWRU, and from public documents. Photos courtesy University Archives, CWRU.


Here is a link to the CEA Forum Roundtable that Mary Assad organized with Shaofei Lu and our former ESL Director, Hee-Seung Kang. It focuses on the teaching of comic books in the writing classroom.

Cara Byrne will give a lecture, “Why Black not Blue? Revising and Reimagining Children’s Books,” on Tuesday, October 30th, in Clark 206.

Michael Clune’s next critical book, A Defense of Judgment, is under contract with the University of Chicago Press.

Susan Dominguez and KSL Research Services Librarian, Dr. Mark Eddy, have co-authored a pedagogical article on collaborative teaching in the most recent issue of Currents in Learning and Teaching Academic Journal.

Sarah Gridley has a poem, “Where Are the Days of Tobias,” forthcoming in Poetry magazine.

John Higgins has an article entitled, “The Killing of John Lambe and the Subjectivity of the Crowd in the Early Modern English Theatre,” published in the journal Shakespeare.

Denna Iammarino co-organized a symposium on Edmund Spenser’s View of the Present State of Ireland, which was sponsored by the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities, Writers House, and the Department of English. (May 2018).

Kristine Kelly‘s article: “Charting Paths: Networks and a Mobile Aesthetic Practice in Pullinger and Joseph’s Flight Paths and Heyward’s of day, of night” is included in Paradoxa, no. 29, “Small Screen Fictions,” edited by Astrid Ensslin, Lisa Swanstrom, and Pawel Frelik.

Dave Lucas gave a lecture, “Attempt at a Mythology,” for Writers House in September.

Announcing the third edition of William Marling’s, the oldest (since 2001) and largest website dedicated to the hard-boiled American detective novel.

Marilyn S. Mobley delivered a paper, “Morrison, Baldwin, and Coates: The Politics of Dismantling the House That Race Built,” at the American Literature Association 29th annual conference in San Francisco on Friday, May 25, 2018. Mobley’s paper was presented at the panel on “Articulating Otherness,” organized by the Toni Morrison Society.

Jimmy Newlin‘s essay, “Foul Pranks: Recognizing Vice Principals as a Comic Othello,” appears in Shakespeare Bulletin vol. 36, no. 2 (summer 2018).

Luke Reader has an article forthcoming in Jewish Culture and History –“Leonard Woolf: A Jew of a Rather Peculiar Sort: Leonard Woolf, Jewishness, and a 20th Century Public Life.

Brad Ricca sold his new nonfiction book Olive the Lionheart to St. Martin’s Press.

Robert M. Rowan‘s chapter titled “Open Source Technical Communication in the Classroom: Digital Citizenship, Communities of Play, and Online Collaboration” was published in the collection Citizenship and Advocacy in Technical Communication. Godwin Agboka and Natalia Matveeva, Editors.

The Collaborative Emily Dickinson Translation Project has finally been published–As I Dwell in Possibility, from Chengdu’s Sichuan Literature and Art Publishing. Gary Stonum collaborated on a dozen of the translations into Chinese, out of the roughly 200 in the volume.

Thrity Umrigar‘s new book, The Secrets Between Us, was published in June.

Cultures of Trust

by Thom Dawkins

For the past year, I’ve been working with Books@Work, an organization in which professors facilitate literature discussions for a variety of communities in order to create cultures of trust, respect, inclusion, and productivity. One series of discussions has been with the veterans housed in a residential care facility at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center. It has been a privilege and pleasure to get to know these veterans, many of whom are facing issues of homelessness, substance abuse, or other profound setbacks.

Books@Work is not a classroom situation, and it’s not really a book club. And although some of the participants may have literacy difficulties, we are also not a literacy organization: folks of all levels of literacy can participate. Instead, we like to say that the book is just another voice in the room, and what we read acts as a springboard for whatever conversation might arise for these particular people in this particular room at this particular time.

In our conversations, we begin by taking turns reading something together, often a short story. (We’ve read anything from Flannery O’Connor to Virginia Woolf to Stephen King; Ray Bradbury seems to be a particular favorite.) Then, I prompt the group with some questions, but my job is simply to get us going and get out of the way. While I am nominally the group leader and facilitator, the point of the session is to discover what in the story resonates the most.

Sometimes the most productive conversations are those that begin with a memory or a mental association: an old movie, a lyric from a song, or just a reminiscence of the way life used to be. Some of our veterans are well into their seventies, while a significant number are Gulf War vets, and yet we always find common ground. Time and time again, these conversations prove that those things that feel most personal and private are also the most universal.

Since the veterans we work with are part of an intentional therapeutic community, we often find that they are more willing to open up about the personal issues they’re facing in ways that might be difficult for other people sitting in a group like this for the first time. These sessions are also a low-stakes break from the often intense rigor of their daily regimen, which is perhaps another reason why participants feel settled and comfortable enough to share personal stories with people they’ve just met.

Books@Work changes how we understand and relate to each other, and the organization (as I have experienced it) is all about lifting up relationships and communities. We’re building trust, learning how to navigate life and work, and thoughtfully negotiating the ways in which putting a bunch of people in a room together can lead to a healthy sense of changing perspectives.

Our work was recently featured in two articles written by journalist Christopher Johnston: a larger feature in The Christian Science Monitor on community-oriented literary programs in Cleveland, as well as a profile of our sessions with veterans that appeared in Freshwater Cleveland.

For more information about Books@Work, you can visit their website at For the Christian Science Monitor article, visit, and for the article in Freshwater Cleveland visit


Danny Anderson (’12) has an article in Sacred Matters.

Post Card Poems and Prose published alum (’10) Iris Dunkle‘s poem about the Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma.

A short story by Marie Lathers (’15) published last fall was read on the Delmarva NPR station last summer, followed by a brief interview with Marie. You can listen to it starting at around 34 minutes on this podcast.

Jessica Slentz (’17) is now the Grants and Government Relations Manager at the Rochester Museum & Science Center.

Marie Vibbert (’98) is listed here as a new F and SF writer to check out.

Alum (’88) John Vourlis has a newly published textbook on screenwriting, inspired and with a foreword by Louis Giannetti, author of Understanding Movies.

Wayzgooz (a printer’s celebration)

Photo by Jessica McGuinness


If you have news you would like to share in a future newsletter, please send it to department chair Christopher Flint (

The department also has a Facebook page on which several hundred of your classmates and profs are already sharing their news. Just use your Facebook locator to find “CWRU English Department” and see what they’ve been up to. Become a member of the community and post your own news. We want to know. The department will be posting here regularly too—news of colloquiums, readings, etc.