Mark Nowak, a genre-blending poet whose work combines language, drama and photography in innovative ways, has been appointed Director of Washington College’s Rose O’Neill Literary House.
Nowak comes to Washington College from St. Catherine University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he was Associate Professor of Humanities and taught for 17 years.
Nowak is the author of three books of poetry, including Shut Up Shut Down (with an afterword by Amiri Baraka). Shut Up Shut Down was a New York Times “Editor’s Choice” and a finalist for Academy of American Poets’ James Laughlin Award.
Poet Adrienne Rich has hailed Nowak as “a poet of remarkable gifts,” who “is generating a new poetics of class.”
Described as a “documentary poet” due to his work’s journalistic approaches toward real-world issues, Nowak is most recently the author of Coal Mountain Elementary, a work that relates the mining disaster of Sago, West Virginia, to a variety of mining accidents in China. Howard Zinn characterized this book as a work that “manages, in photos and in words, to portray an entire culture, the culture of the miner and his family, and it is a stunning educational tool.”
Nowak’s work has been widely anthologized. He is one of a dozen poets to be included in American Poets in the 21st Century: The New Poetics, and his work appears in An Anthology of New (American) Poets, Poets of the Great Plains, and America Loomed Before Us: Contemporary Poetry from the Other USA.
He is the founder and editor of XCP: Cross-Cultural Poetics, a journal that was launched in 1997. Nowak will be relocatinng the journal with him to Washington College, where student interns will have the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of academic periodical publishing by working with XCP.
Nowak’s teaching experience at St. Catherine University has been supplemented by his work teaching poetry and writing in alternative environments including the Twin Cities Ford Assembly Plant, the United Steelworkers of America, Stillwater Prison, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, and in public school outreach programs in Bowling Green, Minneapolis and Chicago.
“As incoming director of the Literary House, I’m eager to meet everyone in the Washington College community,” Nowak said. “And whatever your relationship to the word--be it as an aspiring graphic novelist, a spoken-word artist, a history student or historian trying to revise your next essay, or someone who just wants to spend a half hour ‘talking books’ – I hope you’ll make the Rose O’Neill Literary House your destination.”
Since 1968, Washington College has awarded the Sophie Kerr Prize, the largest literary prize in the world exclusively for undergraduates. In its 39 years the Prize has ranged in value from $9,000 to as high as $65,000. The Kerr endowment has also brought a parade of distinguished writers to the Chestertown, Maryland, campus, including Toni Morrison, Edward Albee, James Dickey, John Barth and Joyce Carol Oates. The Rose O’Neill Literary House is the co-curricular center of literary activity at Washington College, as well as the home of the Writers Union, a large and thriving club of student writers.
“We’re quite excited that Mark is taking the helm of the Rose O’Neill Literary House program,” said Christopher Ames, provost and dean of the college. “He will build on the traditions that have made the Literary House a haven for the creative arts, and he will contribute fresh ideas and new energy to Washington College’s already vibrant literary community.”