Poet Rodney Jones draws full house


Rodney Jones, the current Mary Rogers Field Distinguished University Professor, read his poems to a full house in Peeler Art Center on Friday evening.
This semester, Jones has made himself accessible to faculty and students by teaching and sharing his work.
In 2007, former professor David Field started funding the Mary R. Field Distinguished University/Visiting Professor of Writing in honor of his late wife Mary Field. Since 2010, DePauw's creative writing department has brought on prominent writers to teach in temporary positions at the university.
This position includes a "generous stipend" and also allows the Mary Field professor additional funds towards "cover[ing] some of the expenses of moving to and living in Greencastle," according to an email from professor of English Joe Heithaus
This year, Jones, a poet, has been selected for the position.
Heithaus studied under Jones at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and had only good things to say about him.
"We not only want to bring in a great writer, we want to bring in a great teacher," Heithaus said. "My joy in bringing him here is that his poems speak to people on a level of experience and a depth that exemplifies the power of poetry. We're lucky to have him."
English Department Chair Harry Brown also said Jones fit the criteria for the visiting professor position.
"A Mary Field professor is meant to generate new ideas and energy that goes throughout the creative writing department," Brown said. "He's not just a big name, not just somebody we recognize as a great writer, but someone who's willing to give himself over in experience of teaching in creative writing. Rodney has been great about it."
Jones is the fourth Mary Field professor and the second poet to have the position since Crystal Williams came in spring 2010. He was also preceded by nonfiction author Ian Frazier and creative writer Antonya Nelson.
His role as a visiting professor includes teaching a creative writing class, giving a reading and a craft talk.
"It gives students a chance to take a class with a well-established writer," Brown said. "[Jones will be] kind of floating throughout creative writing program, enhancing different aspects of it."
He is also allowed to select another writer to bring to DePauw, and as a result, fellow poet Marianne Boruch will be joining Jones in Greencastle. They both will participate in a craft talk on Oct. 30 at the public library, which will be followed by a reading of her own in Peeler Auditorium at 7:30. Boruch teaches at Purdue University and has won the Kingsley-Tufts Award for poetry.
The next Mary Field professor will likely be a dramatic writer according to Brown.
"What we'd like to do is represent different genres of creative writing, give students a broad perspective, discuss as a department whether to hire a well-established writer versus one who is emerging at the beginning of a great career," he said.
So far, all Mary Field professors have fallen into only the first category.
Jones has many distinctions, including winning the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Kingsley-Tufts Award. Renowned poet Elizabeth Bishop selected his first poetry book for the Associated Writing Programs Award. He teaches at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
"I've been fortunate in most ways," Jones said at the reading. "This is a magnificent position and I've been able to get completely lost in my work."