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UW-Eau Claire Professor Max Garland named Wisconsin poet laureate

January 3, 2013
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Max Garland
(Photo by Juanita Brunk)

EAU CLAIRE — Max Garland, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professor of English and widely published, award-winning poet, essayist and fiction writer, has been named the 2013-2014 Wisconsin poet laureate by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters.

During his two-year term, Garland will promote poetry and creativity among all ages, and act as an advocate for imaginative engagement in poetry and the other arts in Wisconsin.

"Max Garland is an excellent poet and teacher," said Dr. Carmen Manning, associate professor and chair of UW-Eau Claire's department of English. "He is able to take what seems to be an ordinary image or event, and through poetry, elevate that moment into a thoughtful reflection on the human experience. He cares deeply about poetry and the value of poetry in our everyday lives, and he will be an outstanding advocate for poetry as poet laureate of Wisconsin."

Poetry has an important place in today's society, Garland said.

"As someone who believes poetry is particularly vital in a culture where so much of the language coming at us is either sales pitch, bureaucratic jargon, or political propaganda, I think poetry offers a place where we (young and old, experienced or just beginning) can still draw upon the power of honest and thoughtful words to more deeply express who we are, who we might become and what connects us as human beings."

Garland noted that poetry has been vital to human culture since long before written language.

"Although there are no signs of its going away, sometimes it's helpful to be reminded, among all the chat, emails, updates, tweets and dashed-off text messages, that there is still this great ancient resource, poetry, that allows us to express what can't be deleted, what William Faulkner referred to as the 'old verities and truths of the heart,'" Garland said. "So the job of the poet laureate is to invite more people to participate (as readers, listeners and writers) in this art form. Also, as any child can tell you, poetry is fun."

Garland has been a member of the UW-Eau Claire English faculty since 1996. He taught previously at UW-Madison, the University of Iowa, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and as a poet-in-the-schools in Kentucky, Iowa and Wisconsin. He also has taught many adult and community courses in both poetry and fiction writing.

Before re-entering the university community he worked at many nonacademic jobs in his native western Kentucky, including working for 10 years as a rural mail carrier on the route where he was born, a route formerly run by his grandfather, an experience drawn upon in his first book of poems, "The Postal Confessions," winner of the 1994 Juniper Prize for Poetry. His second book of poems, "Hunger Wide As Heaven," was the winner of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center Open Competition.


Garland's other awards and honors include a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship, the Tara Award for Short Fiction, a James Michener Fiction Fellowship, a Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing Poetry Fellowship, two Wisconsin Arts Board Literary Fellowships, a poetry fellowship from the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, a Bush Artist Fellowship for 1999-2000, and the Arts and Letters Poetry Prize for 2004.

Garland's poems, stories and essays have appeared in many journals, including Poetry, New England Review, Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Crazy Horse, Chicago Review, Gettysburg Review, Prairie Schooner, Poet and Critic, as well as in the anthologies "I Know Some Things: Stories About Childhood by Contemporary Writers," "High Infidelities," "The Most Wonderful Books" and "Best American Short Stories 1995." In addition to his two books of poetry, a chapbook of his poems, "Apparition," was published in 1999 by Parallel Press. His poems also have been chosen for inclusion on Poetry Daily (an online anthology of contemporary poetry) and have been featured on Garrison Keillor's "The Writer's Almanac" on National Public Radio.

At UW-Eau Claire, Garland teaches introductory and advanced creative writing; creative writing workshops in poetry and fiction; introductory courses in college writing, literature, poetry and the short story; and upper-level and graduate courses in modern and contemporary poetry.

Garland is the second individual with UW-Eau Claire connections to be named Wisconsin's poet laureate. In 2004, Denise Sweet, a UW-Eau Claire alumna, award-winning author and the university's former staff coordinator of conferences and institutes, was named to the post. Sweet is now an associate professor emerita of humanistic studies at UW-Green Bay.

The Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters has overseen the Wisconsin Poet Laureate program and provided support for the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission since May 2011, following the elimination of state support for the position. The Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission, which includes members from various statewide arts organizations, conducts the poet laureate selection process, assigns responsibilities to the poet laureate and assists him or her in performing the official duties of the position.

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