Award-winning poet Jake Adam York, associate professor of English and creative writing at the University of Colorado-Denver, is the third Summer Poet in Residence at the University of Mississippi.
The acclaimed author will live in Oxford from June 15 to July 17, as a guest in the Lawrence House, a gift to the Department of English from John and Renee Grisham.
During his stay, York plans to continue writing his sequence of elegies for civil rights martyrs. He will also give a public lecture and reading, make a weekly classroom visit and co-host a writers’ salon for graduate students.
“I knew I needed to go to Mississippi this summer to do some archival and site research on poems about Medgar Evers and Paul Guihard,” York said. “The residency seemed like an ideal way to place myself in Mississippi long enough to do the library research and to have the kinds of experiences that will make the poems I write more than the basic documentary work of remembering the martyrs.”
“This year we tightened our application requirements, so we had fewer applications but of a higher quality,” said Beth Ann Fennelly, associate professor of English and SPiR program director. “We selected Jake York because his project was very compelling. The poems are powerful and ambitious. He is also a successful teacher and editor who will have a lot to offer our students and the Ole Miss community during his month of residence.”
A graduate of Auburn University and Cornell University, York is the author of “Murder Ballads” (Elixir Press, 2005), winner of the fifth annual Elixir Press Awards Judge’s Prize; and “A Murmuration of Starlings” (Southern Illinois University Press, 2008), a Crab Orchard Series in Poetry selection.
He said he was not only surprised and happy but also relieved to learn of his selection to visit UM.
“I’d built up a story of what the residency would mean to me – not just a chance to do the work I need to but also a chance to explore further my fascinations with Faulkner,” he said. “Furthermore, I felt a great honor being chosen to come by two poets whose work I admire and from whom I hope to learn much.”
“We think Jake’s project is an excellent match for the resources we offer,” said Ann Fisher-Wirth, professor of English. “We are all looking forward to his presence in Oxford this summer.”
The Summer Poet in Residence Fellowship bridges the gap between the Grisham Visiting Writers Series of the spring and fall.
“For our students to now have year-round access to great literary leaders is an exciting cultural opportunity,” said Patrick Quinn, English department chair.
At UC-Denver, York directs an undergraduate creative writing program and with his students produces Copper Nickel, a journal of art and literature. He is also a contributing editor for the journal Shenandoah. For many years, he was co-editor of the online journal storySouth, and of Thicket, an electronic journal dedicated to Alabama writers and Alabama writing.
His poems have appeared in Shenandoah, Oxford American and Southern Review, among others. Selected poems were included in the anthologies “Visiting Walt” (Iowa University Press, 2003) and “Digerati” (Three Candles, 2006). York’s work has been nominated six times for the Pushcart Prize and has placed in numerous competitions including the 2004 and 2008 Campbell Corner Poetry Prize contests, the Academy of American Poets Walt Whitman Award and the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize.
“His (York’s) poems resurrect contested histories and show us the past with its troubled beauty, its erasures, and its violence,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning author Natasha Trethewey. “York’s words, like wings, rise from the ash of silence – a murmuration so that we don’t forget, so that no one disappears into history.”
Award-winning poets Paula Bohince and Tung Hui-Hu were the inaugural and second Summer Poet in Residence in 2007 and 2008, respectively.