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~from Jill Salahub

Tomorrow the English department will be holding a very special celebration. Bruce Ronda is retiring this year, and as sad as we are to see him go, we are sending him off with our best wishes at this upcoming event. To honor him here on the blog, I’ve been collecting memories and well wishes from a few people who studied and worked with him over the years.

I myself had the honor of learning from Bruce as a graduate student, taking one of my very first classes with him, and have enjoyed his company and his leadership as I stayed on to work in the department. At one point, he guided and supported me through a very difficult time, an experience that had the potential to end my career at CSU. With Bruce’s help it instead allowed a space uniquely suited for me where I could thrive, matching what I was good at with what the department needed, and I am forever grateful to him for that.

I will miss Bruce’s dedication, trustworthiness, wisdom, and kindness, and wish for him only the best of things as he moves on. What follows, in no particular order, are more memories and good wishes.

Bruce Ronda talks with faculty and staff at the first walk through of the Eddy Hall remodel

From Professor Matthew Cooperman: I was the first TT [tenure track] hire, under Bruce’s tenure as Chair. I will always be deeply honored by the trust he showed in me, and have thought of him as a paragon of integrity. He’s been there for me, and for my family, during my time at CSU. And he’s a helluva banjo player.

Bruce Ronda and Leslee Becker at an awards ceremony in 2015. Leslee says of Bruce, “I’ve been in his house!”

From Associate Professor Pam Coke: The poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy wrote, “We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”  Dr. Bruce Ronda will always have a special place in my heart.  He is a dreamer of dreams, and he helped make my dreams come true.

It was Christmas Eve, 2001, an era where few people had cell phones.  Suffice it to say I did not have a cell phone.  Bruce called me at my parents’ house, in Dubuque, IA, on Christmas Eve, to offer me a job as an Assistant Professor of English Education.  It was the best Christmas present ever.

I have never regretted accepting Bruce’s offer.  It has been an honor to work with a man as intelligent, as principled, and as caring as Bruce.

I have been reminded of this many times over the past fifteen years.

It was September, 2003.  I had requested to meet with Bruce to discuss “a situation.”  I was not sure how he would react to my news, but when I told Bruce that Ken and I were pregnant, he smiled and told me that I had just made his week.  In that moment, I felt less afraid, less unsure.  It had been a while since any women in the department had had a baby, let alone an untenured faculty member.  I was uncertain what that would mean, but with a warm smile and a gentle hug, Bruce let me know that everything would be okay.

That is one of his many gifts.  Bruce is an active listener and a compassionate leader.  He is ethical and humane.  He is wise and wonderful.

Bruce, you have been a mentor, a colleague, and a friend to me.  Thank you for all of your advice and support over the years.  I will always remember having a cup of coffee with you when you stepped down as English department chair.  When I thanked you for hiring me, you said, “It was one of the best decisions I made as chair.”  I will treasure these words for the rest of my career, as I will treasure you, Bruce.  I wish you every happiness in the years ahead.  Enjoy retirement.

Three department chairs: Louann Reid, Bruce Ronda, and Pattie Cowell

From Assistant Professor Todd Mitchell: Thank you for all your years of service, leadership, and inquiry. You’re a true scholar, and an inspiration to many. May you continue to inspire others to be their better selves in the next chapter in your life. Best wishes.

From Associate Professor Dan Beachy-Quick: One of the things I’ve realized about Bruce, trying to write an anecdote about him, is how the man himself feels immune to anecdote. That is, something about Bruce refuses—for me at least—to fall into a short moment remembered that captures some essence of the man. Instead, when I ponder the gifts Bruce has given me, they seem in their largeness and constancy to escape the confines of the form, and so it only feels apt, at this pivot in career and life, to thank him largely for large generosities. When I was hired at CSU Bruce was chair. Coming from an art school, I realized I had no idea about how academic life actually worked. I think Bruce sensed this, and in the kindest of ways, and in the subtlest of ways, became for me a mentor—and in that mentoring, showed me the importance of long vision and patient listening, of not making a show of oneself but helping others be more seen. On lucky occasions when we could both make time, we’d coffee or a beer, and simply talk—about what each of us working on, of course, but talked in a way beyond research agendas and publishing hopes. Instead, it was (and is) a conversation in which you get a glimpse of the intellect not as a resource but as a life. That’s a mentoring, too—to see what it looks like to be involved in one’s work outside of any other motive than to do the work. It’s a vision of happiness, or so it felt to me, and feels to me still. And I owe Bruce a large debt for the vision.

Bruce at John Calderazzo and Sue Ellen Campbell’s retirement ceremony one year ago

From Graduate Programs Assistant Marnie Leonard: Bruce Ronda is an exemplary scholar, a supportive leader, and a pleasure to work with.  These descriptions are deceptively simple, yet each encapsulates a wealth of experience and insight and each engenders confidence and trust. Bruce’s contributions to the Department of English and to the College of Liberal Arts have helped make our part of CSU the best place to be.

From Professor Barb Sebek: Bruce has been a supportive colleague and good friend since I first came to CSU in 1995.  At several crucial moments in my career, he provided much needed professional insight and encouragement.  I admire his commitment to producing fine literary and cultural scholarship while also fulfilling the many duties of department chair and associate dean in the CLA.  In addition to serving together on various MA projects, faculty searches, and departmental and college committees, I’ve borrowed from his syllabus and assignments for the graduate literary research methods course and benefited from his teaching advice on countless occasions.  It’s hard to trace the influence of a colleague that has been so pervasive and so reliable.  Beyond department life, Bruce has provided many happy occasions over the years for making music together—from Purcell, Mozart, and Puccini to Gershwin, Woody Guthrie, and Hank Williams.  Bruce’s great talent on piano and strings is matched by his knack for organization to keep his fellow musicians on task—binders and folders with song lists and lyrics, and, on some occasions, exquisite martinis to ensure a warmed up and appreciative audience.  I will really miss Bruce at CSU, but look forward to more musical adventures ahead!

Bruce in front of the fully remodeled Eddy Hall

From Instructor (Senior Teaching Appointment) James Roller: Professor Ronda was inspiring to me during my graduate studies in a spectrum of ways. His depth and breadth of knowledge in American Studies, his gentle guidance and academic patience, his enthusiasm for the growth of his students, and his continuing curiosity for his subject were at once mystifying and encouraging. He impressed upon his advisees that a world of fascination awaited discovery in every text and every new anecdote that lay beneath the leaves of literature and history. My favorite memory of Bruce Ronda spoke of his unparalleled work ethic. As I was finishing my master’s thesis, I recall sending Bruce a draft of some 120 pages of written research, only to be amazed when he returned it to me the very next day with comments on nearly every page! He is a model academic who teaches by example and shows us all what is possible with a lifetime of dedicated service to the academy.

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As National Poetry Month comes to a close, we’d like to spend the final days focusing close to home, on our very own English department poets — Matthew Cooperman, Sasha Steensen, Dan Beachy-Quick, and Camille Dungy.

CSU professor Matthew Cooperman is the author of four chapbooks and five full-length books of poetry, including A Sacrificial Zinc (2001), DaZE (2006), Still: Of the Earth as the Ark which Does Not Move (2011), Imago for the Fallen World (2013), and his most recent, Spool (2015), which won the New Measure Prize.

Professor Cooperman did his undergraduate work at Colgate University in New York. He then went on to receive a master’s degree from the University of Colorado and a Ph.D. from Ohio University.

His work has received the Jovanovich Prize from the University of Colorado, the Utah Wilderness Society Prize, an Academy of American Poets INTRO Award, the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize, the O. Marvin Lewis Award, and the Pavement Saw Chapbook Prize, among other honors.

In addition to teaching literature and poetry courses at Colorado State University, Cooperman is a founding editor of the literary journal Quarter After Eight and a co-poetry editor for the Colorado Review.

You can check out some of Matthew Cooperman’s poetry on his website. You also might want to read his recent faculty profile.

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Bean Cycle, image by Tim Mahoney

“Spoken word poetry is the art of performance poetry. I tell people it involves creating poetry that doesn’t just want to sit on the paper, that something about it demands to be heard out loud or witnessed in person.” -Sarah Kay

We’ve spent this week celebrating the form of slam poetry and spoken word. We have our favorite performances, but there are also countless local opportunities to get involved with slam poetry. We’ve compiled a list of places around Fort Collins where you can hear slam poetry, and even share some of your own. Let us know if you’ve found other fun ways to get involved with poetry, we’d love to know!

Places to share and exchange poetry

  • Poetry Slam at the Bean Cycle, Fort Collins: On the first Friday of every month at 7:30pm, visit the Bean Cycle where you can listen to or share your own spoken word. For the last 12 years, the event has been hosted by Larry “Booger” Holgerson. The Rocky Mountain Collegian says “this accepting social poetry environment is a great place to meet poets and reach a larger audience.” Read the Collegian’s article for more information about these slams.
  • Slamogadro at Avogadro’s Number, Fort Collins: This slam poetry competition happens on the last Sunday each month at Avogadro’s Number. Readings start at 7pm. Follow their Facebook page for more information.
  • I AM Open Mic, Fort Collins: This open mic happens on the last Friday each month at the Bean Cycle Roasters. People are encouraged to “come and share their expressions with the Fort Collins Community.” This event is not limited to poetry, working to bring together musicians, poets, comedians, storytellers, and all creative artists. Open mic starts at 8pm.
  • Lo Co Poetry Slam, Loveland: Make the trip down to the Lo Co Artisan Coffee House on the third Saturday of each month for a local poetry slam. Visit their events calendar for more information on events at the coffee house.
  • Punch Drunk Press, Denver: This organization is located in Denver and hosts various spoken work and poetry events. If you’re interested in Denver and Boulder’s poetry scene, watch their Facebook page for upcoming events.

 

Places to hear poetry

  • ForkSocket Reading Series, Fort Collins: This reading series is hosted by the MFA students at CSU, taking place at the Wolverine Letterpress & Publick House. It is an “attempt at an atypical reading structure intended to inform if not challenge conventional ideologies that have been associated with the negative situation.” These events happen multiple times throughout the school year so watch their Facebook page for event information.
  • The Creative Writing Reading Series, Fort Collins: While the series ended for the school year, the CSU English Department brings in poets and writers both from within and outside the Fort Collins community. Watch the English Department Facebook page for information about next school year’s series.
  • Dead Poet’s Society, CSU Fort Collins: CSU’s own Poet’s Society meets at the Wild Boar on alternating Friday’s from 7-9pm. Visit their Facebook page for more information about this group.
  • Greyrock Literary Club, CSU Fort Collins: This purpose of this club is to “spread awareness about the literary publishing community.” To learn more about this organization, visit their page.
  • The Greyrock Review, CSU Fort Collins: The GreyRock Review is the undergraduate literary magazine at CSU. Check out what others are writing, and submit some of your own creative work! Visit their website for more information.
  • Creative Writing Club, CSU Fort Collins: As their page explains, this club is “for writers who want to improve and share their work in an encouraging and constructive environment.” For more information about meeting times, you can visit their page.

Other ways to get involved locally

  • Front Ranges Writers: This is a group created to compile different readings and events around the Fort Collins area. Visit their Facebook page for more information.
  • CSU English Calendar of Events: For events that are happening at CSU, and within Fort Collins, you can watch our calendar of events for information on upcoming events or speakers.
  • Wolverine Letterpress & Publick House: This local non-profit literary/arts organization is a great source for all things creative. From a calligraphy class to knitting session and Poetry Slams, make sure you check their calendar of events for any upcoming events.

 

Next week is the final week of National Poetry Month 2017. We’ll be featuring local poets, those near and dear to our hearts.

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Image from rupikaur.com

Artist and poet Rupi Kaur was born in Punjab, India, in 1992. When she was only 4, her parents emigrated to Toronto, Canada. Her artistic and creative ability was something that emerged when she was a young age. Kaur began to draw and paint, inspired by her mom and would write poems for her friends, and even crushes.

As Kaur reflected in an interview, “I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on. I was moved by the ability of books to pull one out of their reality and into someone else’s…I want to put words to feelings we have trouble putting into words. Like the breath before the kiss, I want to make the mundane beautiful.”

At the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Kaur was able to pursue this passion by studying Rhetoric and Professional Writing. She then began posting her poems on social media sites, like Tumblr and Instagram. Through these venues she gained popularity and published her first collective works in 2015 titled milk and honey. 

The collection has received much attention for the voice she brings to violence, abuse, love, loss and family. Huffington Post said that “reading the [Kaur’s] book, is like getting the hug you need on a rainy day, the catharsis you crave after a tragedy.”

From the success of her first collection, Kaur has a contract for two more books with one slated for fall of this year.

While her poetry perfectly captures a wide breadth of powerful moments, it’s not without lots of time and sweat on Kaur’s part. As she explains, “The words get in the way of writing.” Her process often involves “Freewriting. Rewriting. Entering. Backspacing. Coping. Pasting. Until I stop. Until it feels like I’ve gotten out everything that needed to be written and then I will put it away.”

Rupi Kaur has made waves in both the poetry realm and within larger feminist work. In 2015, she posted a controversial image on Instagram of her lying on a bed with an obvious menstrual stain on her sweatpants. This was part of a Visual Rhetoric course at the University of Waterloo.

Through her art, Kaur fights to bring attention to these taboos of society, becoming a powerful messenger for many women without a voice of their own.

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The name Sylvia Plath incites thoughts of deep, depressive poetry and a woman who abruptly ended her life. But her raw, revealing writing has inspired and influenced generations of new writers and poets.

Born in 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts, Plath had always been drawn to language. From the age of eleven, she kept a journal and published poems in her regional newspapers and magazines. In 1850, following her high school graduation, Plath’s first national publication was printed in the Christian Science Monitor.

Plath completed her undergraduate degree at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. After graduation, she moved the Cambridge, England as a Fulbright Scholar where she met Ted Hughes, whom she married in 1956. One year later, she returned to Massachusetts and studied with the writer Robert Lowell. From there, she had success publishing her first poetry collection, Colossus, in England and had two children named Frieda (1960) and Nicholas (1962).

Most of Plath’s poetry and writing drew from her personal experiences and struggles. While attending Smith College, she spent a disastrous summer living in New York City. Her experiences from that summer worked as the basis for her semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, released in 1963. The novel was originally published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. By sharing her deeply personal experiences, Plath had a great impact on the genre of confessional poetry.

Her tragic death left behind many unpublished works. Those poems were gathered and published posthumously in 1982 as The Collected Poems. Unfortunately, she was not alive for the moment that collection won her the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Plath’s words continue to stand out in time, providing insight into the darkness of life and Plath’s experience of life. Plath was deeply connected to her consciousness and self, something that carried depth within her writing. As Sylvia Plath describes, “I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am.”

 

Video: Sylvia Plath reads her poem “Daddy”

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Edith Wharton may not have published her first novel until she was 40 years old, but she was a prolific writer who actually began writing poetry and fiction as a young girl, even writing a novella at age eleven. Publishing was seen as something women, especially those of her class, didn’t do (their goal was supposed to be obtaining a “good” marriage) so even though she continued to write and publish — in secret, privately, and anonymously or under another name — she was much older when she finally became known as a writer.

Later in her life, living in Paris when World War I broke out, Wharton used her status and wealth to establish workrooms for unemployed seamstresses, convalescent homes for tuberculosis sufferers, hostels for refugees, and schools for children fleeing war-torn Belgium.

In addition to her fifteen novels, seven novellas, and eighty-five short stories, Wharton published poetry, books on design, travel, literary and cultural criticism, and a memoir. Her novel The Age of Innocence won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for literature, making Wharton the first woman to win the award. She was also nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1927, 1928 and 1930. Besides being the first woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize, she also received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Yale University and a full membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

 

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“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” ~Gloria Steinem

International Women’s Day commemorates the movement for women’s rights, and was originally called International Working Women’s Day. The earliest observance of a Women’s Day was in New York in 1909, organized by the Socialist Party of America. Over the years, various countries observed a similar day at different times, many in conjunction with strikes, rallies, and other protests in support of increased rights and better conditions for women.

The United Nations began celebrating in International Women’s Day in 1975, International Women’s Year. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace. Many countries currently treat it as an official national holiday with many others (including the U.S.) celebrating it unofficially.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Leymah Gbowee visited CSU on Monday. She was the recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her part in ending the Liberian Civil War. “Trained as a trauma counsellor for former child soldiers, as well as the leader of the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement, Gbowee spoke on her experiences with her part in ending the Liberian Civil War as well as the importance of acceptance and embracing humanity.” At one point during her speech, Gbowee said, “When people say America is divided I say ‘yes indeed,’ and when people ask me if we will find our way back I say ‘yes.’ To be whole again, your country must break down issues on the humanity of those issues.”

The 2017 UN Secretary-General’s Message for International Women’s Day begins, “Women’s rights are human rights. But in these troubled times, as our world becomes more unpredictable and chaotic, the rights of women and girls are being reduced, restricted and reversed.” It goes on to say, “Denying the rights of women and girls is not only wrong in itself; it has a serious social and economic impact that holds us all back. Gender equality has a transformative effect that is essential to fully functioning communities, societies and economies.” It ends with, “On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.”


Video: a International Women’s Day message from UN Women’s Executive Director

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Image credit: bell hooks Institute

Image credit: bell hooks Institute

bell hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins on September 25, 1952. The town of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, where she and her five siblings grew up and went to school, was segregated, and her experiences in this community helped shape the commitment to feminism and resistance to racism central to her life’s work.

hooks wrote her first book, Ain’t I a Woman, while she was an undergraduate student at Stanford University. Her pen name, bell hooks, was borrowed from her great-grandmother, but she used the lower-case letters as a means to foreground the content of her writings rather than her identity as author. After it was published in 1981, Publisher’s Weekly ranked it in the “twenty most influential women’s books of the previous twenty years.”

Throughout her career, hooks has held academic positions at The University of California in Santa Cruz, Yale University, Oberlin College, and City College of New York. She is known as a “crossover” academic, meaning that her works span many academic disciplines. The focus of her over thirty published works has been race and gender theory, but these works are remarkably diverse in how they apply race and gender theory to various disciplines, from pedagogy and teaching to film and media studies. In academic communities today, her works are read, taught, and considered foundational in many fields.

Alongside her various theoretical and critical publications, she has also published five children’s books, a memoir, works of poetry, as well as appearing in numerous films. Today she lives in Kentucky.

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toni_morrison_2008

Toni Morrison is among the most acclaimed African American authors in U.S. history. In 1993, she became the first African American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. She also received a 1988 Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio on February 18, 1931. Even at an early age, she showed a love of literature and reading, going on to major in English and classics and Howard University and to get her master’s degree from Cornell in 1955. Her thesis focused on the works of Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner, both of whose literary influences can be seen in her work.

Morrison’s novels feature African-American protagonists and span the length of U.S. history, from the colonial period (A Mercy) to the Civil War (Beloved) to the Korean war (Home). In addition to her novels, she has also published a work of literary criticism—Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination—a collection of essays and speeches, several children’s books, as well as the libretto for the opera Margaret Gardner in 2005.

Morrison taught throughout her career and was a professor at Princeton University from 1989 until 2006. A prolific writer, Morrison continues to produce work, publishing a novella as recently as 2015.

Video: Mini bio from Biography.

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~from intern Joyce Bohling

careerfair02

Recently I shared a story here on the blog—“What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?”—exploring career options for English majors. For that post, I interviewed Career Education Manager for the College of Liberal Arts, Katie Russo, who explained all that English majors bring to the professional world.

To continue my exploration into this subject, I attended the CSU Career Fair to talk to recruiters themselves and see what kinds of skills employers are looking for.

I prepared for the Career Fair in all the ways you’re supposed to—took my resume to the Career Center to polish it up, did a little research about the companies and organizations that were going to be there, and dressed in my most professional attire. Still, I felt nervous, like there was more I should be doing.

“Maybe I’ll just wake up tomorrow and be an entirely different person,” I thought Tuesday night. “That seems like it will increase my chances of being hired significantly.”

Of course, that didn’t happen. The name and major printed on the name tag I was given before I entered the Fair declared me to be, still, Joyce the English major.

Joyce, the English major

Joyce, the English major

I was struck, as I entered the Grand Ballroom and took a turn around the room, by the wide variety of employers and jobs. If you wanted to work for a bank, there were banks. If you wanted to work in social services, there were organizations that assist underserved populations. If you wanted to work for a national or state park, there were national and state parks. Restaurants, manufacturers, hotels, public schools, insurance agencies… There were even religious organizations recruiting students interested in a career in ministry. It’s encouraging to think that, whatever your passions and interests, there are employers out there looking to hire you.

Admittedly, one of my greatest fears attending events like the Career Fair is that it will be viciously competitive. I had visions of recruiters glancing over my resume, looking me up and down, and sneering, “What do you think you’re doing here?”

But my anxiety turned out to be unwarranted. Many were very excited to see I had a background in writing and teaching. Some were recruiting for specific jobs and internships that I wasn’t qualified for, but when I said I was looking to get experience in communications, they said, “Oh, cool—our company hires communications people too! Here’s the person to contact.”

Some recruiters were honest that their company’s positions were very competitive, but no one was rude or told me I need not apply.

In fact, only one recruiter told me outright that I wasn’t qualified at all—for the simple reason that her company was only hiring licensed psychologists. She was very nice about it.

careerfaircrowd

In the end, I was glad I overcame my fears and went to the Career Fair. No one scoffed at the idea of an English looking for work or suggested that I transform into an entirely different person; in fact, a number of recruiters seemed very pleased to talk to me and encouraged me to follow up.

What’s more, I found out about some job opportunities in the area I wouldn’t otherwise have known about, which was, after all, the point: to make a good impression, yes, but also to help think about what career options are right for me.

In other words, I was reminded that career exploration is not about becoming someone else, someone that you imagine companies will want to hire. It’s about figuring out what’s a good fit for you.

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