|ABOUT THE EDITOR|
Contemporary Poets Archive
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About This Site
I was born and raised in the mountainous rain forest of northwestern Oregon, the same small section of the world where Raymond Carver spent the first few years of his life. It’s a working class community – mill work, logging and fishing. My father worked as a logger and house builder, then went on to the transportation industry before retiring early to pursue woodworking, clamming, and fishing. After being a stay-at-home mom for my five siblings and me, my mother spent the next ten years working in fish packing plants before she, too, retired.
Much of my life has been spent in the outdoors – in particular, behind my parents’ home in the state forest, along the lower Columbia River, and at the Pacific Ocean. Some of the most famous Bigfoot sightings were in this remote terrain, and so our hairy friend of the woods became my childhood boogey-man. I’ve always had close friends, but, like my father, I have a strong independent streak. Like him, I am primarily a self-driven, autodidactic artist.
As for schooling, I went to Lower Columbia College half-time my senior year of high school to study math, was awarded a Rochester Trust Scholarship, which paid for my freshman year of college at Clatsop Community College in Astoria, then went on to Oregon State University where I majored for two more years in Physics and Engineering Physics with a Nuclear Engineering minor before deciding I was born to be a writer. I switched majors and, in 1995, graduated with a BA in English with minors in physics and creative writing. I then moved to Nebraska and worked for Burlington Northern-Santa Fe for a short time before securing a permanent mid-administrative-level job in the Nebraska state government, where I worked for two years before starting night school for my MA at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In 2000, I finished the MA program in English with a thesis entitled, Animals, a story collection, and quit my job to be a full-time PhD student at UNL. While completing the program, I taught composition, creative writing, and literature, studied Russian, and began ‘seriously’ writing and reading poetry. In March of 2005, midway through the drafting of my dissertation (an historical novel about a Russian religious sect entitled Spirit Wrestlers), I received a phone call from Eavan Boland informing me that I was selected as a Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University. In August 2005, I completed the PhD program in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing and was in residence at Stanford as a Stegner Fellow until the summer of 2007. I now direct the creative writing program at Pepperdine University.
My history with literary magazines goes back to 1998 when I began reading fiction for Prairie Schooner. I was then asked to read for the Prairie Schooner Book Series for three years in both fiction and poetry, and since moving to the Bay area have been a reader for Zoetrope: All-Story. Because of my long history with fiction, I am particularly drawn to narrative poetry, though I do love poetry in all its variety.
I was privileged to have had Ted Kooser, a recent Pulitzer Prize winner and Poet Laureate of the US, as my only poetry teacher prior to my time at Stanford. He has shaped me into the poet that I am today. I owe a great deal to his encouragement, the strong sense of place and concision in his own writing, along with his careful line-by-line feedback. There’s nothing like witnessing a master editor at work on your own writing.
My poetry has been published or is forthcoming in more than thirty journals and magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Zyzzyva, Poet Lore, Rattle, Open Spaces Magazine, Center, Ellipsis, Wrters' Journal, Rosebud Magazine, and Confrontation, among many others. My fiction has appeared in The Literary Review, Other Voices, Writers’ Forum, Descant, Pangolin Papers, as well as others . I have received five Pushcart Prize nominations, and my short story and poetry book manuscripts have been finalists seven times for national book prize competitions, including the Iowa Short Fiction Award, A. Poulin, Jr. Prize in Poetry, the John Ciardi Prize in Poetry, and the Colorado Prize for Poetry. Other awards include the Stegner Fellowship in Poetry, the Tennessee Williams Scholarship to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Weldon Kees Master Novel Scholarship to the Nebraska Summer Writers’ Conference, and the Vreeland Award for Literary Merit. My poetry collection, The Man I Was Supposed to Be, has just been released.
I have an ever-widening taste in books and authors, but the books I find myself drawn to again and again are Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Raymond Carver’s Where I’m Calling From and All of Us, Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Stories and Mystery and Manners, Ted Kooser’s Delights and Shadows, Tobias Wolff’s The Night in Question, Bruce Weigl’s Napalm Song, and the stories of Anton Chekhov.
Since June 2004 I have been married to a wonderful poet and novelist, Cynthia, who also happens to be the Associate Editor of POETRY MOUNTAIN, and we live with our son, Will, in a very quiet neighborhood in Westlake Village, CA. We are both busy working on our writing and this website.
I hope this somewhat lengthy biography has been helpful in getting to know me and, perhaps, getting a sense of what has shaped my taste in poetry.
Enjoy your time at POETRY MOUNTAIN.
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