- Ph.D., University of Iowa
- M.A., Miami University
- B.A., Valparaiso University
For as long as I can remember, I've loved the puns, cheesy inspirational verses, dirty limericks, song lyrics, language games, and advertising jingles of popular culture. For almost as long, I've loved reading, studying, reciting, printing, binding and collecting canonical or "literary" poetry as well, and my teaching and scholarly interests emerge from this double affection for so-called highbrow and lowbrow poetries. I believe that every instance of poetic language use—from Emily Dickinson to Snoop Doggy Doggerel—is a complicated mixture of social, cultural, and aesthetic forces that merits our close attention and, if we're lucky, our admiration.
I teach American literature and creative writing with a special focus on poetry from the U.S. Civil War to the present. I subscribe to Walt Whitman's notion that "To have great heroic poetry we need great readers—a heroic appetite and audience," and so my writing classes are great reading classes, and my reading classes do heroic writing. I find it illuminating and challenging to mix texts that have various aesthetic, cultural, and discursive registers so that, for example, we might read a combination of great poems, popular poems, song lyrics, and advertising jingles in a single semester in order to better understand the many ways that poetry shapes and is shaped by our encounters with the world around us. In my classes, we approach poetry not only as a means of self-expression, but as a powerful communicative and analytical tool as well.
I study the intersection of American poetry and popular culture, and especially how ordinary readers encounter or use that poetry in their lives. ("What poems do you have on your Facebook profile?" he asks.) I am author of Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America, a full-length study published by Columbia University Press in 2012, and coeditor of Poetry after Cultural Studies, a collection of eight essays published by the University of Iowa Press in 2011. Nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, Everyday Reading examines how Americans collected and maintained poetry scrapbooks, how they listened to poetry on old-time radio shows, how they encountered it on billboards advertising shaving cream, and how canonical writers engaged and were engaged by the culture of popular poetry more regularly than scholars have assumed. The research and writing for this book were made possible by the support of many individuals and institutions including the National Endowment for the Humanities.
I'm currently working on another book project tentatively titled Beyond the Book: Poetry and New Media in Modern America. Sort of a sequel to Everyday Reading, Beyond the Book studies the mediation and remediation of poetry by nonprint or "new" media within popular culture and asks questions like: What is the relationship between a poem and the medium that transmits it? How do poems become differently meaningful when they're projected via magic lantern, made the subject matter of films like The Night Before Christmas (1905) or A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), broadcast on TV, or read on Kindles or computer screens? And what reciprocal effect does the projection, airing, broadcasting, or reading of poetry have on the medium itself? Beginning with the projection of poems via magic lanterns during the Progressive Era, and ending in the digital age (craiglists haiku, anyone?), this book aims to illustrate how and why poetry has affected the cultural place of new and emergent media forms in the long twentieth century. You can keep up with how other people and I are thinking about and recording these and many other intersections of poetry and popular culture at my blog "Poetry & Popular Culture."
"Ghosts of American Literature: Receiving, Reading, and Interleaving Edna St. Vincent Millay's The Murder of Lidice," PMLA (forthcoming).
"Popular Verse: Poetry in Motion" in American Literature in Transition, 1910-1920, ed. Mark W. Van Wienen (UK: Cambridge UP, forthcoming).
"From Vagabond to Visiting Poet: Vachel Lindsay and the Institutionalization of American Poetry" in After The Program Era, ed. Loren Glass (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, forthcoming).
"Field Notes: Writers at War," Los Angeles Review of Books 22 July 2016.
"High, Low, and Somewhere In-Between: Women's Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America" in A History of Twentieth-Century American Women's Poetry, ed. Linda A. Kinnahan (UK: Cambridge UP, 2016).
"Lullaby Logics," Poetry 206.2 (May 2015).
"Orality, Literacy, and the Memorized Poem," Poetry 205.4 (January 2015).
"Material Concerns: Incidental Poetry, Popular Culture, and Ordinary Readers in Modern America" in The Oxford Handbook of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, ed. Cary Nelson (New York: Oxford UP, 2012).
"American Advertising: A Poem for Every Product" (with Cary Nelson), in U.S. Popular Print Culture 1860-1920, ed. Christine Bold (New York: Oxford UP, 2012).
"The Business of Rhyming: Burma-Shave Poetry and Popular Culture," PMLA 125.1 (January/February 2010).
"The Sounds of Black Laughter and the Harlem Renaissance: Claude McKay, Sterling Brown, Langston Hughes," American Literature 80.1 (March 2008).
"Conches on Christmas," Poetry (September 2005).
College Colloquium (Walt Whitman)
College Colloquium (The Graphic Novel)
Eng 116 50 Great American Poems
Eng 116 Literature of the Great Depression
Eng 119 Forms of Literature: American Poetry
Eng 135 Introduction to Creative Writing
Eng 201 Close Reading
Eng 202 Introduction to Literary Theory
Eng 203 Fundamentals of Creative Writing
Eng 332 Intermediate Poetry Writing
Eng 354 The Modern Novel
Eng 361 Modern Poetry and Poetics: Texts & Contexts
Eng 361 Modern Poetry and Poetics: 20th Century African American Poetry
Eng 441 Poetry of the Pacific Northwest
Hum 497 Walt Whitman's Leaves of GrassEng 498 Senior Seminar in Creative Writing