- 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 Edgar Guest, Snoop Doggy Doggerel, and Rupi Kaur—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 American poetry in public life and popular culture. My most recent book, Poetry Unbound: Poems and New Media from the Magic Lantern to Instagram, focuses on the mediation and remediation of poetry by nonprint mass media, asking 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, aired on the radio, broadcast on TV, or made the subject matter of films like The Night Before Christmas (1905) or A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)? What reciprocal effect does the projection, airing, broadcasting, or reading of poetry have on the respective medium itself? And how does this history help us understand the work of digital-era poets now leveraging social media platforms like Instagram and Tumblr to achieve best-seller status?
I am also the author of Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America, which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2012. Everyday Reading focuses on poetry in the lives of ordinary readers largely outside of educational contexts. It showcases large and elaborate poetry scrapbooks that people kept between the Civil War and World War II, fan letters they wrote to old time poetry radio shows in the 1920s and 30s, rhyming shaving cream ads that appeared on billboards during the mid-century, and Hallmark greeting card poetry written by a well-known poet. In 2011, I also published Poetry after Cultural Studies, a collection of eight essays that I co-edited with Heidi R. Bean. And between 2008 and 2016, I kept and maintained the blog "Poetry & Popular Culture."
My next project will be to complete another book, Oh, Ooooh, and Oi: How Three Little Sounds Key the Poetry of Pop Music, which ties artists like Whitney Houston, Bon Jovi, Ke$ha, The Cure, Guns N' Roses, and Beyoncé to the tradition of lyric poetry stretching back to Sappho and ancient Greece.
Oh, Ooooh, and Oi: How Three Little Sounds Key the Poetry of Pop Music (in progress).
"The Poem in the Digital Age" in The Cambridge Companion to the Poem, ed. Sean Pryor (UK: Cambridge UP, forthcoming).
"'Overlook the poem, but look the picture over': On the History of Poetry and American Silent Film," JCMS: Journal of Cinema and Media Studies 59.1 (Fall 2019).
"Career Windows," Journal of Modern Literature 41.3 (Spring 2018).
"Popular Verse: Poetry in Motion" in American Literature in Transition, 1910-1920, ed. Mark W. Van Wienen (UK: Cambridge UP, 2017).
"From Vagabond to Visiting Poet: Vachel Lindsay and the Institutionalization of American Poetry" in After The Program Era: The Past, Present, and Future of Creative Writing in the University, ed. Loren Glass (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2016).
"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 101 Reading Literature and Culture
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 213 Research Methods in Literature and 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 Grass
Eng 498 Senior Seminar in Creative Writing