Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mark Brazaitis attended the Split This Rock Poetry Festival in Washington, D.C.

Mark Brazaitis traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to participate on a panel and give a reading at the Split This Rock Poetry Festival. The festival's title comes from a line in the Langston Hughes poem "Big Buddy":

Don't you hear this hammer ring?
I'm gonna split this rock
And split it wide!
When I split this rock
Stand by my side.

Mark served on a panel celebrating the anthology I Go to the Ruined Place: Contemporary Poems in Defense of Global Human Rights, in which his poem "The Policeman" appears.

The Political Economy of Canadian Music, Part 2

Since it has nearly 80 million hits, chances are that you've already seen this video of Canadian indie band Walk off the Earth's version of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know," but did you notice what is says about life in the "Socialist Paradise" to the north? It's not simply that all five musicians are reduced to playing one guitar (which is presumably owned by the entire agricultural collective) but that, because socialism stifles individual initiative, they're only able to imagine doing a cover of someone else's music. At least the clumsy marketing attempt at the end of this version of the video suggests that the entrepreneurial spirit hasn't quite been crushed out of them.

Nonetheless, there would seem to be creative benefits to life under oppression. Note how much dramatic energy Gianni (the guy in the middle) brings to the chorus. It works really well for the song, but he's probably just pissed off that his "apartment" is a hotplate and a cot in a corner of what used to be Celine Dion's dining room.

All the same, an amazing version of an outstanding song, which reminds some of the Tenants of some stuff that happened one summer.

Update: Since Mark mentioned The Key of Awesome's parody, the Tenants have decided to post it below. Note that it offers a different explanation for the circumstances of the video that are based on assumptions of capitalist decadence and are therefore obviously wrong. BTW, the extensive marketing efforts at the end of the video make it clear that this is not a product of Canada.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Congratulations Matt London, part II

Congratulations -- once again! -- to Matt London, this time for winning an AWP Intro Award for his poem "National Acoustic Symphonic Academy."

Matt's poem will appear in the Hayden's Ferry Review. See:

Congratulations, Matt!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

James Holsinger, ABD

In what was, by all accounts, an outstanding Qualifying Exam for Doctoral Candidacy, James Holsinger was able to convince his committee--Tim Sweet (Chair), Ryan Claycomb, John Ernest, Katy Ryan, and Peter Reed of the University of Mississippi--that it was indeed time to let him begin writing his dissertation on how conceptions of space--dramatic space, architectural space, national space, environmental space--shaped early American drama.

This comes as part of an exceptional week for James, who also received an award as the Exemplary  GTA in the Department of English. The Tenants all look forward to seeing what he'll do next week.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Outstanding GTA Awards Announced

We've known all along that they were excellent teachers. Now, you do too.

ECAS 2011-2012 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award for English
Jess Queener

Department of English Exemplary Teaching Award
James Holsinger

Department of English Exemplary Teaching Award, Runner-Up
Erin Johns-Speese

Congratulations, Matt London!

Matt London started off our thesis season with a wonderful defense of his terrific collection Disaster Recovery Drawer. Here's the title poem in all its strange and wonderful beauty:

Disaster Recover Drawer

This is where all the women and children are.

All the walls are made from bleached particleboard.

It has a nice, wood-laminate facing.

Despite the hollow cold, no fires are allowed.

They have battened down their furniture.

They have loosed their dreams.

All have released their prayers.

And the world is very slippery, very strong.

Please join me in congratulating Matt for a job well done.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Farewell to Bill

Professor Bill French, one of the English Department’s best friends for over six decades left us on February 18, 2012. Bill’s department homepage can still be read here, and on it, he recalled his history with WVU and the English Department.

“I came to Morgantown in the fall of 1950 and entered WVU, from which I graduated as an English major in 1954. After graduation, I worked in a variety of jobs and spent two years in the US Army. In 1959 I started in an MA program at the University of Pittsburgh, which I completed in 1960 with a thesis on the poetry of Matthew Arnold. I went on at Pitt for a PhD and completed that degree in 1967, writing a dissertation on Shakespearean (and non-Shakespearean English Renaissance) tragedy that centered on King Lear, a play I still love, teach often, bend all my intellectual and emotional resources to, and believe yields useful and inspiring insights into the human condition. . . . I returned happily to WVU, my alma mater, in 1964 and became Professor of English in 1986, teaching a wide variety of courses and publishing a number of scholarly essays in learned journals as well as articles in popular magazines.”

What Bill doesn’t say about himself as a teacher whom our students not only admired but loved is indicated by a former student of mine and Bill’s who is now a professor herself at the University of the Pacific and who wrote to me recently: “He was such a wonderful professor —and I'll never forget the night he went with a group of students to Sunnyside. We hauled him from bar to bar . . . what a trouper! He'll be sorely missed by many people.” When I wrote above that Bill was a “friend” to the Department, I was thinking of the way he made everyone around him comfortable and glad to be in his company. That’s why students in graduate classes, like this one, wanted him to come along with them away from the classroom where they could buy him a beer and show their appreciation for his support of their own studies. I suspect that he never taught a class that he didn’t have his students to his home to work over some scenes in a play, to watch a film of Othello or King Lear or just to celebrate the end (or even the beginning or the middle) of the semester. He and his wife Marty are among the most gracious people I know.

He was indeed a trouper! Bill loved the theatre, not just to see and talk about a play, but to act in one, to think about its production and its design, too. His courses allowed him to deliver that St. Crispin’s Day Speech to his students who unwittingly played “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers [and sisters]" to his Henry. And not just Henry, but Caesar and Orlando and even Lady Macbeth and then Stanley and Blanche in his American drama courses.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bill was a stalwart member of the local Town and Country Players. In the 1980s, I was privileged to repeat his role as Eliot in Private Lives, and had the very great advantage of his coaching me followed by a very generous review of my part in the production afterwards. I loved playing poker with him, which I did often, but better than that was talking with him about how to make a line work or what's at the heart of a scene.

He began to work with Maryat Lee, who was one of the originators of street theatre during the 1950s in Harlem, but then moved to Hinton, West Virginia, and brought experimental theatre with her where it thrived for a time. Bill spent untold hours writing the chapter Lee played in American drama, and of course became a friend in a way that scholars do not always befriend their subjects. I'll never forget meeting Maryat Lee at Bill's house and being told by her how she despised "theatrical people," and then watching her perform a scene from one of her own plays as theatrically as anything I've ever seen. It was, quite simply, an astoundingly dramatic moment. But it wasn't unusual for such things to happen at Bill's home. And as I remember, many members of the Department were there, as often they were, that evening. Indeed, it was at Bill's home that I met John Gardner, the author of Grendel with whom I shared my Beowulf class the next day. During those years, if the Department had an unofficial home where more often than not we met each other socially, it was at 212 South High Street.

I last spoke to Bill on the phone when he and Marty were headed for the cruise which ended so sadly. I was in rehearsals for Lysistrata and Bill was talking excitedly about that play and theatre groups I should audition for. I heard about his death just before a Saturday night’s performance of the play.

In that last discussion with Bill, I asked him about an actor named Adam Pribila whom I'd recently met and whom he may have seen in a company of Shenandoah performers he had greatly admired. "A very good actor," said Bill. Adam, too, remembered Bill who stayed after performances to talk with the actors, and upon learning of Bill’s death, he dedicated his performances in a recent production of Much Ado About Nothing to him in the program. Very few of us have loved what we taught so much as Bill did and it was always apparent to others who love it as well. That's another reason he was indeed a trouper.

His son, Edward, wrote movingly in his father’s careful and succinct style about Bill’s passing: “After decades of a wonderful and fulfilling life, my father, William Wirt French passed away on Saturday morning. He died at sea, after a wonderful evening. It was quick and painless, and he avoided his greatest fear of a prolonged withering away of his health and his mind. He was an educator, a lover of art, a great father who was involved in his community, among many other things.”

All of us who knew you miss you, Bill.

Bill’s full and official obituary is available here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Graduate Assistant Position

Graduate Assistant
West Virginia University Press

The WVU Press has a GTA position for a Production Assistant. This is a
2-year position, beginning August 2012.

Salary: $14,900.00 Aug 16, 2012 – May 15, 2013


Essential skills
*Familiarity with Chicago Manual of Style essential; Strunk and White
and Harbrace optional
*Professional phone and email communication skills

Additional, relevant skills and experience
Pre-printing prep
Basic layout
Basic image preparation
Research and re-assembly of text assets for reprints

2-year minimum commitment preferred
Successful completion of English 602 a plus

Interested candidates should contact the Press with a letter of
interest and qualifications. Select candidates will be invited for an
Anyone with questions should not hesitate to contact Carrie Mullen,
Director, 293-8400, ext. 2, or

Another Pretty Day

And a good time to catch up on our congratulating.

First, congratulations to the grad students for another successful colloquium this past weekend. Special acknowledgment to organizers Andrew Calis, Yvonne Hammond, Josh Johnson, Aaron Percich, and Shane Stricker, who did the heavy lifting. The event was so good that testimonials soon came from the likes of Professors John Lamb and John Ernest. And, as is not surprising in a department as mutually supportive as ours, in no time professors were thanking students and students were thanking professors and, yeah, we all are pretty remarkable.

I was very impressed by the panel I attended. Four creative writers—Rebecca Childers, Jessi Lewis, Christina Seymour, and Shane Stricker—read work about "home places" and I learned all kinds of truly fascinating things about walnut trees and romance novels and manual labor and Altoona.

I also enjoyed the keynote address by Professor Stephen Matthews from Penn State. The presentation, while science-y (geography!), made good sense, and I found myself frequently saying (silently), "huh, well, what do you know..."

Finally, congratulations to Professor Brian Ballentine, this year's recipient of the much coveted Beagle Award for having, it seems, "no ego." Though (fittingly) Dr. Ballentine declined to have his picture taken, here's a pic of the trophy:

A good-looking hound, wouldn't you say?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Why Rick Santorum Could Never Be Elected in Canada

Gawker recently posted this video of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" as an example of a perfectly crafted pop song. It is that, and it goes beyond catchy to being actually addictive, as Gawker predicted. Plus, the video is consistently cute without being hate-able. What particularly interests the Tenants, however, is the video's narrative line, which starts from the premise of a female gaze and just goes from there.

Like the Biebs, Jepsen is Canadian (the song has already gone platinum in Canada), and the Tenants don't remember Canada looking quite this greenish and vaguely washed out, but, after some discussion, we concluded that this is the way a socialist country eventually ends up looking. In any case, the video makes clear why Rick Santorum could never be elected in Canada.

P.S. Other signs of socialism: the automobiles seem to be in the process of devolving into East German Trabant 601s, and, by American standards, everyone is clearly malnourished.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Graduate Academy Summer Courses and Workshops

For all your professionalization needs:

Preparing Future Faculty Workshop: May 9-10

This 2-day workshop provides detailed information on applying for college faculty positions, working at different kinds of institutions, and the criteria for promotion and tenure. See for more details and registration information.

STEM Entrepreneurship Essentials: June 4-6

Science Entrepreneurship Essentials is a 3-day program for doctoral students in the science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines. The program will prepare you for a leadership role in developing or managing a business. You will learn how to best negotiate personnel issues, financial planning, marketing, and strategy for your company. See to register and apply for scholarship funding.

Grant Writing Summer Course GRAD 593 (2 credits): summer session 1

This course prepares students to write a grant to any major funding agency or private foundation.

WV Institute for Undergraduate Science Education:  June 3-8

This one-week seminar provides tangible ways to promote active learning in teaching undergraduate STEM courses. See for more information.

Write Winning Grants Workshop: June 21

This one-day workshop offers an overview of how to create a persuasive grant proposal. A registration form will soon be available on

Dissertation Boot Camp, Humanities and Social Sciences: May 14-18

Dissertation Boot Camp, Hard Sciences: July 9-13

These one-week programs combine structured writing time, workshops on writing topics, peer critique, and individual consultations. They provide a supportive environment to help doctoral students refine their projects and structure their writing.   

See for more details and registration information.

GTA Position for Fall in Women's Studies


The WVU Center for Women’s Studies is an academic unit in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences with a university-wide mission to coordinate interdisciplinary teaching and research on women and gender. The Center offers both a major and a minor in women’s studies to undergraduates. Graduate students may earn the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (M.A.L.S.) with an emphasis in women’s studies or a graduate certificate in women’s studies. GTA applicants may be graduate students in any discipline. Previous GTAs, for example, have come from English, Social Work, Counseling, History, Education, Public Health, Public Administration, Law, Art, and the Women’s Studies-Directed Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program.

Dates of Employment: Academic Year 2012-2013 (fall 2012 and spring 2013 semesters)

Stipend: TBA. Recipients will also receive a tuition waiver and hospitalization insurance. The Center for Women’s Studies will provide limited additional financial support for GTAs to enhance their educational development through our Women’s Studies Difference Fund.

Duties: Teach one or two sections of WMST 170 Introduction to Women’s Studies in each semester as part of the teaching team; one GTA will also assist with other undergraduate courses. GTAs are directly supervised by Brian Jara, Senior Lecturer in Women’s Studies, and will attend two mandatory one-day orientation and trainings in May and August. GTAs will have full responsibility for sections of WMST 170, including grading exams and papers, consulting with students on their writing and projects, and participating in a weekly teaching practicum with Professor Jara.

Qualifications: BA degree in any field; some graduate work preferred. Previous research and/or community experience in women’s studies and current research and/or course work on women or gender are preferred. Teaching experience is strongly preferred. The Center for Women’s Studies values inclusiveness and diversity in the public it serves and on its staff. Nontraditional and minority candidates are encouraged to apply. Students must be full-time degree candidates to qualify as GTAs, and must register for the teaching practicum in both fall and spring semesters.

Application Procedure: The application is available online at:


Questions: Visit the Center's web site at or contact Dr. Ann Oberhauser, Director, Center for Women's Studies at

Monday, March 5, 2012

Live from AWP, sort of

Well I tried to live blog from AWP but it just wasn't possible from the depths of the Chicago Hilton. But here we are---or were---sitting at the first-ever WVU table.

Many thanks to Rebecca Thomas and Connie Pan for lugging all our books to Chicago and doing such an excellent job showcasing our program. Seriously, these two should go into sales. Jim, Glenn, and I pretty much just had to sit there for, like, an hour, while Connie and Rebecca fielded questions and offered candy and sold books and worked the crowd for hours on end.

Current MFAs Kelly Sundberg, Rebecca Doverspike, and Andi Stout were also in attendance, and it was great to see some of our alumni (or at least know they were floating about), including Kelly Moffett, Katie Fallon, Molly Brodak, Lori D'Angelo, and Wayne Thomas.

If I'm forgetting anyone, it's only because there were, like, over 9000 people there. Yes. Really. Nuts. Next time, you come too.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Zachary Schomburg Live at 123

This Tuesday, March 6th, the poet Zachary Schomburg is stopping by Morgantown on his cross-country tour. He and his troupe will be performing at 123 Pleasant Street at 8:00 p.m. Please come! This will be an unusual and entertaining event.

One Amazon reviewer calls Schomburg's work "scary and beautiful." Another says it's "troubling, brilliant, deceptively playful."

I'll let you decide:


From the very beginning I knew exactly what would kill me. Regardless, I
convinced myself that it could be anything. I convinced myself that what
would kill me would be made up of any of the random things that would kill
anybody else. When I walked my dog around the neighborhood, I saw what
would kill me hovering in the trees. When I swam in the ocean, I felt what
would kill me nudging at my ankles. At the grocery store: behind the cereal
boxes. I grew old like this, seeing what would kill me on my dinner plates, in
the rabbit cages. I grew old distracting myself from what I knew to be true.
And then, just like I knew it would, it came late one night, booming with
slowness, from the fjords.

–from Fjords, Vol. 1