The Richard L. Thomas Chair in Creative Writing brings internationally-recognized poets and fiction writers to Kenyon to teach creative writing workshops and literature courses. The current visiting Thomas Chair is Katharine Weber.
The Thomas Chair's permanent occupant Professor Hyde teaches at Kenyon during fall semester of each year. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" grant, and has been awarded one of nine 2002 Lannan Literary Fellowships. Professor Hyde has written, edited, and translated several books, including The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, widely regarded as ground-breaking in its exploration of the role of the artist in a commercial society, Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art, Alcohol and Poetry: John Berryman and the Booze Talking, On the Work of Allen Ginsberg, and a book of poetry entitled, This Error is the Sign of Love. Hyde's most recent publications include the essays of Henry David Thoreau, and the recently published Common as Air (2010), intended to "offer a modern and American model of our cultural commons." In announcing its award, the Lannan Foundation praised Hyde for having "written profoundly and imaginatively about art and culture and community." At Kenyon, he has taught such diverse courses as Buddhist poetic practice, creative nonfiction, American Nature Writing, and "The Confidence Game in America."
The Thomas Chair's five-year occupant Katharine Weber teaches at Kenyon during the spring semester of each year. She has served on the board of the National Book Critics Circle, and is an Associate Fellow of Calhoun College at Yale University. She was named one of Granta Magazine's "50 Best Young American Novelists" in 1996. In addition to numerous stories and essays published in anthologies, her short fiction has appeared in publications including The New Yorker, Story, Boulevard Magenta, and Southwest Review. Her reviews, essays, and journalism have appeared in publications including The New York Times Book Review,The Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune,The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, The London Review of Books, Washington Post Bookworld, Salon.com, The New York Times, and Architectural Digest. In addition, she is the author of five novels and a memoir and is currently writing a novel about a monkey helper.
A unique combination of biographer, poet, and dramatist, Daniel Mark Epstein is a graduate of Kenyon College. Author of several biographies on Abraham Lincoln, as well as books on persons as diverse as Bob Dylan, Edna St. Vincet Millay, Nat King Cole, and Aimee Semple MacPherson, Daniel Mark Epstein served as Thomas Chair in Spring of 2012. He has won numerous honors and accolades, including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship (1974), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1984), and an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2006). In addition to his biographies, his poetry has been widely praised, and he received the Prix de Rome for his work in 1978. For more information, see his website.
Jake Adam York, author of Murder Ballads (2005), A Murmuration of Starlings (2008), and Persons Unknown (2010), was the 2011 Richard Thomas Chair. Focusing on the mysterious and often unknown martyrs of the civil rights movement, York's poetry, a delicate cross between commemoration and eulogy, won numerous awards, including the 2005 Elixir Press Prize in Poetry and the 2009 Colorado Book Award. In addition, York co-edited Copper Nickel, a journal of art and literature published by the students and faculty of the University of Colorado, Denver where York was an Associate Professor of English as well as Director of the Creative Writing Program. A talented writer exploring the complex slippages, gaps, and erasures in memory and history, Jake Adam York's poems of reparation appeared in numerous journals, such as Pleiades, Blackbird, the Northwest Review, and the Southern Review. York also blogged for Kenyon's own Kenyon Review Online as well as for The Best American Poetry Blog. Jake Adam York passed away suddenly in December 2012. His last work Abide will be published posthumously.
Renowned poet, translator, and critic Robert Mezey was the 2010 Richard Thomas Chair. His poems, prose, and translations have appeared in many highly respected journals, including The New York Review of Books, Hudson Review, The New Republic, Kenyon Review, The New Yorker, Harper's, Poetry, and Paris Review as well as countless others. Author of numerous books of poetry, including The Lovemaker (1960), White Blossoms (1965), A Book of Dying (1970), Evening Wind (1987), and Natural Selection (1995). Mezey has also published several translations, including the poems of Jorge Luis Borges's works, which he worked on with Richard Barnes. Mezey has won several of the top poetry prizes, including the Robert Frost Prize and the Lamont Poetry Prize as well as a PEN prize, a prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the 2002 Poet's Prize for his Collected Poems: 1952-1999 (2000).
Diane Glancy, the 2009 Richard Thomas Chair, was a professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she taught creative writing and Native American literature for 17 years. Her latest collections of poems include, Asylum in the Grasslands, published in 2007 by the University of Arizona Press and Stories of the Driven World, published in 2010. Her 2005 books are In-Between Places, essays, University of Arizona Press, The Dance Partner, Stories of the Ghost Dance, Michigan State University Press, and Rooms New and Selected Poems, Salt Publishers. Lately Glancy has turned her poetic voice to the form of delicately lyrical novels, including The Reason for Crows, a novel of Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th Mohawk converted by the Jesuits, Stone Heart, a novel about Sacajawea, who accompanied the 1804-06 Lewis & Clark Expedition, and Pushing the Bear, a novel of the 1838-39 Cherokee Trail of Tears. Her awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, a Minnesota Book Award, a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship, and the Juniper Prize from the University of Massachusetts Press. She received her M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. She lives in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. Her four grandchildren are Joseph, 8, Charlie, 6, Libby, 5, and Ray, 4 months. View her website at www.dianeglancy.com.
Simon J. Ortiz, the 2007 Thomas Chair, is an Indigenous poet, fiction and non-fiction writer, storyteller, sometime singer, essayist, and editor from Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. He taught two courses: Advanced Poetry Workshop and The Indigenous American Novel: Dealing with Contemporary "America." He is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, fiction, children's literature, and edited works, including Woven Stone, After and Before the Lightning, From Sand Creek, Speaking for the Generations, Out There Somewhere, Men On The Moon, Beyond the Reach of Time and Change, A Good Rainbow Road, and others. His teaching focuses are Indigenous American Literature, De-colonization and Liberation as Creative Expression, and Indigenous Land, Culture, and Community. A former Acoma Pueblo tribal official, Ortiz is a father of three children and grandfather of eight grandchildren (so far). His most recent writing project is a memoir-like collaboration with Gabriela Schwab focusing on culture, historical trauma, and memory. He also was a guest editor, along with poet Roberta Hill, of a special issue of The Kenyon Review. Ortiz is currently a professor in American Indian Studies and the Department of English at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. He can be seen reading his poetry here.
Courtney Angela Brkic, the 2006 Thomas Professor of Creative Writing, has worked in Bosnia-Herzegovina as a forensic archeologist and for the United Nations International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague (ICTY). She is the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship to research women in Croatia's war-affected population, as well as a New York Times Fellowship. She has led creative writing workshops at Newcomers High School in Queens, New York, New York University, and The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Arts and Sciences. Her translations of Croatian Expressionist poet A.B. Simic have appeared in Modern Poetry in Translation.
Fanny Howe, the 2005 Thomas Chair, is the author of more than twenty books of poetry and prose. Her recent collections of poetry include On the Ground, Gone, Selected Poems, Forged, Q, One Crossed Out, O'Clock, and The End. Howe is also the author of several novels and prose collections, most recently, The Lives of a Spirit / Glasstown: Where Something Got Broken and Nod. She has written short stories, books for young adults, and the collection of literary essays The Wedding Dress: Meditations on Word and Life. She was the recipient of the 2001 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for her Selected Poems. She has also won awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Poetry Foundation, the California Council for the Arts, and the Village Voice, as well as fellowships from the Bunting Institute and the MacArthur Colony. She has lectured in creative writing at Tufts University, Emerson College, Columbia University, Yale University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Barry Unsworth, the 2004 Thomas Chair, won England's Booker Prize in 1992 for his novel Sacred Hunger. He was the author of fourteen novels, including The Hide, Mooncranker's Gift, Pascali's Island, Stone Virgin, and Morality Play. Unsworth's 1999 novel, Losing Nelson, joined two of his earlier novels, Pascal's Island and Morality Play, in being short-listed for the Booker Prize. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and held Literary Residencies at the Universities of Durham, Newcastle and Liverpool in Britain, and Lund in Sweden. Unsworth was a Visiting Professor at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1998-99. Unsworth passed away in June 2012.
Claire Messud, the 2003 Thomas Professor of Creative Writing, is the author of The Hunters, When the World Was Steady, and The Last Life. Her novels have twice been finalists for the PEN/Faulkner prize, and she has received both a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Addison Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a prize presented each year to "a young writer of great promise." She recently received a $250,000 award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, designed to "provide her the freedom to devote time exclusively to writing" for the next five years. In addition to Kenyon, she has taught in the MFA program at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, in the Graduate Writing Program at Johns Hopkins, Amherst College and as a writer-in-residence at the University of the South. Claire is best known now for her novel, The Emperor's Children (2006), which was long listed for the Man-Booker Prize.
Alan Shapiro, the 2002 Thomas Chair, has written ten books of poetry, including The Dead, Alive and Busy, winner of the 2001 Kingsley Tufts Award. This annual prize, awarded by Claremont Graduate University in California, comes with a stipend of $75,000, the largest sum ever awarded for a single book of poetry. He is also the author of three books of prose, including "Vigil," winner of the New England Booksellers Association's Discovery Designation. The poetry editor of the Phoenix Poets Series at the University of Chicago Press from 1994 to 2000 and co-editor of "Greek Tragedy in New Translation" at Oxford University Press, Shapiro collaborated with Peter Burian on a translation of "The Oresteia," by Aeschylus, which was published in 2003 by Oxford University Press. Shapiro currently teaches at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and has won numerous other awards since his time at Kenyon.
John Kinsella, the 2001 Thomas Chair, is the author of more than twenty books whose many prizes and awards include The Grace Leven Poetry Prize, the John Bray Award for Poetry from The Adelaide Festival, The Age Poetry Book of The Year Award, The Western Australian Premier's Prize for Poetry (twice), a Young Australian Creative Fellowship from the former PM of Australia, Paul Keating, and senior Fellowships from the Literature Board of The Australia Council. He is the editor of the international literary journal Salt, a Consultant Editor to Westerly (CSAL, University of Western Australia), Cambridge correspondent for Overland (Melbourne, Australia), co-editor of the British literary journal Stand, International Editor of The Kenyon Review, and a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. His poetic reworking of Gotterdammerung, the final part of Wagner's Ring Cycle, recently premiered as part of the Perth International Arts Festival, billed as the largest cultural event ever mounted in Western Australia. Kinsella translated Wagner's mythic tale of the quest for the Ring and the destruction of Valhalla into a contemporary West Australian context, interweaving ideas of environmental destruction, indigenous ownership and gold fever. Among his many other accomplishments at Kenyon, Professor Kinsella launched the Kenyon Chapbook Series, which published the work of the college's best student poets. See his personal website for more details on Kinsella's work.