Monday, February 20, 2012

These "folk" ROCKED.

Micah, Connie, Rebecca, and Shane--no nerves here!
Congratulations to MFA students Micah Holmes, Connie Pan, Shane Stricker, and Rebecca Thomas, who put together an amazing group of presentations for a panel at the 5th annual Ohio State University/Indiana University folklore graduate student conference on February 18th.

The four were students in a special topics course on Folklore Histories, Theories, and Methodologies last spring, for which each wrote a creative project based on their own ethnographic fieldwork.  After the class, they revised their final projects into conference-length presentations that combined an overview of their projects' theoretical framework with an excerpt from the creative work. 

Micah's presentation, titled "A Coal Miner’s Son: Family Folklore As a Catalyst For Creative Writing and for the Formation and Modification of Personal Identity," was based on a nonfiction essay he wrote for the class that focused on stories about his father's 37-year career as a miner, many of which Micah had never heard before doing his fieldwork. 

Connie presented part of a short story she wrote for the class about her grandfather almost catching a mermaid one night while fishing.  In her presentation, titled "Talkin' Story: Just When I Thought I Was Nothing Like My Family," she discussed the ways that new understandings about folk belief influenced her choices about point of view and characterization.

Shane similarly focused on supernatural family folklore in his presentation, "A Cautionary Tale," which explored the ethical dilemma he faced in translating a very personal and rather disturbing family story into a piece of fiction.  He then read an excerpt from the climactic ending of the short story he wrote for the class.

Rebecca, on the other hand, talked about how she discovered she couldn't turn her grandmother's stories about growing up during World War II into fiction, but instead had to use the medium of creative nonfiction to do justice to her collected materials.  Her presentation was titled "'The Option to ‘Be Like a Guy or Something': Familial Oral History about Gender, Education, and Employment."

A colleague from Ohio State told me afterward that our students' presentations were the best prepared and best delivered of of all the panels he saw over the two days of the conference.  Kudos to these four for doing such a great job! 

Enjoying some well-deserved downtime with the awesome gold Impala after the conference.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mary Ann Samyn Wins Benedum Award

Congratulations to Mary Ann Samyn, the recipient of the 2011-2012 Benedum Distinguished Scholar Award.

The award is the highest honor a WVU faculty member can receive for research at the university.

Mary Ann, who won in the humanities and arts category, is the author of six books of poems, four full-length (Captivity Narrative, Inside the Yellow Dress, Purr, and Beauty Breaks In) and two chapbooks (Rooms by the Sea and The Boom of a Small Cannon). She has published in the best journals in the country, including Field, Passages North, Mid-American Review, and The Journal.

She has also received the Eberly College Outstanding Teacher Award, the WVU Foundation Outstanding Teacher Award, and the Eberly College Outstanding Researcher Award.

But enough of what, relatively speaking, is mundane about Mary Ann. On to the spectacular. Her poetry. A sample:

Wish and What Happens
—Back to the fe fi ho hum of it. Don't flatter yourself,
I told everyone else in my row on the plane. Or,
kind of did. Nothing could be more delightful
or more fearsome than the good rage I'm doing privately.
Do you consider yourself marked for luck? If so,
stoke it. I went all the way that way. Someday
someone will come after us; you can bet on it.
Someday they'll say she was to him a mighty holler.

Congratulations, Mary Ann!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Women's Studies Scholarships and Awards

Women's Studies Scholarships and Awards - Update: deadlines changed to March 21
We are pleased to announce our 2012 Scholarships and Awards available to students and faculty in women's and gender studies and related fields.  

This year, we have several awards for returning women students, students in math and sciences, graduate students, and faculty.   

Details about the awards and the application forms are available on the Center for Women's Studies website at   [See, especially, this page.]

The application deadline is Wed., March 14, 2012
Please consider applying for one of these awards or give this information to someone who might be qualified to apply.   

Thank you for your interest in women's and gender studies at WVU !!  

Regards, Dr. Ann Oberhauser
Director, Center for Women's Studies

Monday, February 13, 2012

Dibs Roy Wins An Award

This just in from Sandy Baldwin:

"I am pleased to announce that PhD student Dibs Roy won the " *Richard Tuerk "Out of This World" Paper Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy"* at the Southwest Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association (SWTX PCA/ACA) conference, held last week in Albuquerque, NM, for his paper on post-apocalyptic spaces. The conference website explains that "The Richard Tuerk Science Fiction and Fantasy Award recognizes an outstanding graduate student essay presented in the Science Fiction and Fantasy area. The award includes a prize of $200." The paper was originally written for an independent study course on nuclear discourses and theories of media technology. Well done Dibs!"

As soon as the Tenants have finished high-fiving each other, we're going to gather in the oak-paneled library in the East Wing and have Dibs read the paper to all of us.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Remembering Irene McKinney

As you may know, WV Poet Laureate Irene McKinney died yesterday. She was a friend to many of us here at WVU and, through her poems, a companion to many more.

As is often the case with poetry, poems that seemed to mean one thing, now seem to mean something else, or something also. Here's one such poem from Irene's Six O'Clock Mine Report:

Taking Hold

Water. Water. Water.
Slips through our hands, eases, wets our mouths.
Such a liquid voice issuing from a rock.
And it has mouths and lips of its own.
Much faster than fire it enters the chain
of our being, and doesn't offend our fishy nature.
Its maps are trickling where I want to go.

But to be taken hold of by fire is to be lifted
into another form, so you can't know where you've been.
We are liable to be eaten in that guise, but
nature loves to hide, and I do too.
I do, I love to hide between the flare and wash,
the burning and the drink. In that clarity,
taking hold in love, I feel both flame and balm,
taking the grip of the fire for granted, taking the water

in, since that's what I already am.

Kristen Davis, ABD

It gives me great pleasure to announce that, after a series of exceptionally well-written exams and a wide-ranging conversation with her committee (Chair Donald Hall, Lisa DiBartolomeo from World Languages, Adam Komisaruk, Lisa Weihman, and yours truly), Kristen Davis has passed her booklist exam and can now write ABD after her name on checks if she wants to. The only anomaly is that, in a discussion that touched on everything from Victorian imperialism to 19th-century Egyptian politics to the gothic to whether the women's room at Vice Versa constituted a queer space, there was no serious discussion of The Mummy.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Another Book Award for Mark Brazaitis

Winning book prizes is no easy feat.

That our very own Mark Brazaitis has done it multiple times—the Iowa Short Fiction Award, the George Garrett Fiction Award, the ABZ Poetry Prize, among others—is truly impressive.

And now Mark has another award to add to the list: the Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction from the University of Notre Dame Press.

The editors describe Mark's manuscript, The Incurables, as a "standout" in a strong field of entrants, all of whom have already published at least one book.

And of course contests of this kind receive hundreds of submissions, so "standing out" is a major achievement.

So congratulations—again!—to Mark.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


When I was a little boy, I had the following poster on my wall:

Turns out my jump shot wasn't true, even after I got a pair of Jordans, so in the end, the weapon I chose was words. I read a good many of them, and later, I wrote some too. Now what is true, for me, is that books can shake up the world. Believe it.

Another writer who believes it is coming to WVU next week. That writer is Dagoberto Gilb, Guggenheim recipient and PEN/Hemingway Award winner, among other things. He is a former teacher of mine, and he writes from the gut and soul, from las alturas and from hoyos. He spills it on the page. (Those last two lines are lazily ripped-off from one of his books, Gritos.)

But I've gathered that we live in a digital culture, that we are a people who need something more than books. You're looking at a screen right now. Do you want some footage? Have some:

So, words are the best kinds of weapons. Consider that without the writing of Fred Cruz, there would be no footage to watch. Consider further that without the writers who later wrote of Fred Cruz, including Dagoberto Gilb (who wrote the script for Writ Writer), there would be no footage to watch. It's the passing down of the words that matters. Before you clicked the video, how many of you knew Fred Cruz's story? Of more immediate concern, how many of you know what is happening in Arizona as I write these very words? Right now, in the Tuscon Unified School District, books are being taken from the students who need them. The words of Dagoberto Gilb, among many others, are being removed from schools' Mexican American Studies programs. In the face of this absurdity, writers are employing their full arsenal of weapons, including words of outrage, hilarity, wit and wisdom. Check this out from Tony Diaz, founder of Nuestra Palabra:

Spread the word to anyone who knows or wants to know the truth about the power of books. Tell them to come to the Gold Ballroom of the Mountainlair this Wednesday, February 8th at 7:30 p.m. A writer will be reading some real words there. His name is Dagoberto Gilb.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Doug Terry, ABD

This just in from Professor Ernest:

"Congratulations to Doug Terry, who passed his booklist exam.  A great time was had by all--and Doug has built a solid foundation for an ambitious and important dissertation.  Nice job, Doug!"

The Tenants are very pleased to be able to add their congratulations too.

Spring Break Jamaica--Global Service Learning (all majors welcome)

Spring Break in Jamaica

Study and Volunteer in Jamaica for Spring Break 2012 with WVU and Amizade!

·        Live with a local family
·        Participate in a community development project
·        Visit historical and tourist sites
·        Earn university credit
·        Become an active global citizen

INTS 499—Global Service Learning: Community Development in Petersfield, Jamaica (1 cr.), with Prof. Gwen Bergner, Dept. of English

This course puts global service learning into practice in Petersfield, Jamaica during one intense week of service work; cultural immersion; and the study of global citizenship.  The one-week service learning component in Jamaica allows us to observe and experience the impact of globalization on the people in the community.  The location is ideal: our host organization, the Association of Clubs (AOC), was founded as an outgrowth of the sugar workers’ cooperative at the Frome sugar estate, and Negril, a tourist resort, is only about an hour away from the community of Petersfield.  Participating in a community service project directed by the AOC provides the opportunity to develop mutually enriching relationships across cultural and national boundaries.

·        We will meet at least once before traveling to Petersfield, Jamaica and we’ll have on-line discussions before the trip. Each student will construct a blog through Google’s blogger platform to develop throughout the course.
·        In Jamaica, students perform service work on weekday mornings, attend class after lunch to discuss course materials, and participate in site visits and cultural activities in the afternoon. Evenings are spent with host families.
·        Activities include visits to a local sugar cane production facility, an underground slave route, and local and tourist beaches.
·        After our return, each student will complete a capstone project by adding journal-type entries, links, photographs, images, and video to his/her blog.

For scholarship and financial aid information, please see:

For more information, please see or contact Gwen Bergner at

Hungry Poets: Recite for Your Supper!

Hungry Poets Prize
In Memory of Gabe Friedberg
$250 Prize for the winning poem
$100 Second Prize, $50 Third Prize

          Finalists will read their poems at Hungry Poets Night at the Blue Moose Café in Morgantown, Saturday April 14, 8:00 p.m. Finalists will be notified the week of March 18.

§        Entries must be postmarked (or hand delivered) on or before March 3, 2012.
§        Entries must be between 50 and 500 words.  Only one poem (or poem series less than 500 words) per person.
§        Poems must be typed. The Contest is not responsible for lost entries - Do not send your only copy.
§        You retain any copyright to your poem, but you agree that the contest organizers may publish it in a not-for-profit medium.
§        Include your name, age, phone number and email address.
§        Applicants must be under 30 years old.
§        Each finalist must read his/her poem at Hungry Poets Night to be eligible for the prize.
§        Your poem should not have been previously published or awarded a prize or compensation of any kind.
§        $15 gift certificate to each hungry finalist for one of Morgantown’s progressive eateries.
§        Judges’ decisions will be highly subjective but final. 
                        Send entries to:     
                             Hungry Poets Prize
                             C/o Blue Moose Café
248 Walnut Street                                                            Co-sponsored by
Morgantown, WV  26505                              WVU Department of English