Friday, August 20, 2010

Prof Joseph Thomas' Summer: Hollins College

Hi all. I'm back in SoCal after a six week summer visit to the lovely yet humid & insect infested Shenandoah Valley. I journeyed eastward to serve as a visiting Associate Professor at Hollins University's legendary graduate program in children's literature. I was summoned there to teach a graduate course in children's poetry, & I did, although I had to cancel a week of my six week semester while my lungs recovered from a perfect storm of allergens (the campus was isolated from any of the urban distractions I've grown accustomed to, so my primary entertainment consisted of smoking cigarettes on the patio while gazing longingly westward; arguably, the increase in smoking may have had something to do with my lung problems & the resultant hospital visit, but I'm sticking to the allergen story).

I was working on the newest Lion & Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry essay during my visit, & set my Hollins graduate students on the case, bringing fellow judge Michael Heyman to class for a guest talk (via Skype), & sharing the books up for the award this year with my students, just as I forced them to read all of our previous L&U essays (the award essay should appear in the fall or winter issue of the Lion & Unicorn: look for it!).

Despite my lung failure, the experience was a positive one. The students were great, the parties fun, & the location beautiful (I really dug the electrical storms, & had just about forgotten that water could fall so regularly from the sky; allegedly this was a "dry" period for Roanoke, but things seemed pretty wet from my point of view).

I also arranged for Richard Flynn to come to campus, where he gave a beautiful lecture on Randall Jarrell's The Bat-Poet. Children's Literature scholars Christopher McGee & Jennifer Miskec journeyed westward from their Farmville campus of Longwood University for a several-day visit as well, although they didn't contribute directly to the intellectual goings-on (save for a few engaging conversations; it was nice seeing them both, even if I couldn't set them to work).

Mostly, I used the time to grouse tediously about not being in SoCal, but I also read a host of Philip K. Dick and H.P Lovecraft novels, preparing for the Sci-Fi class I'll be leading next spring here at SDSU. The permanent faculty at Hollins were lovely (especially Amanda Cockrell, the director of the children's literature program), & it was an honor to read my poetry alongside the talented writers on the Hollins faculty just before I headed home. Oh, & Maria Nikolajeva showed up to give an address to the students and faculty. It was great seeing Maria, even if only for a few days.

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