By Kathleen Driskell, Spalding MFA Program Director
At the beginning of 2018, like Janus, I feel myself full of endings, beginnings, and transitions—all at the same time.
Stepping into my new role as Program Director, I’m flushed with gratitude for Sena Jeter Naslund and Karen Mann, co-founders, who dreamed this nationally distinguished MFA in Writing Program into being in 2001. After a lifetime of teaching, Sena’s recent retirement is richly deserved—she has lots more books to write, for goodness sakes!—but we’re not saying good-bye to her; she’s agreed to come back to residency now and then to lecture to our community.
(courtesy of Holly Baldwin)
I do want to give a heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated in her retirement gala during the Fall 2017 residency, whether you presented on a SenaFest panel, dropped into the glittering garden where we held Sena’s retirement reception on the rooftop of our beloved dormitory, the Brown Hotel, or sent warm wishes to be passed along to Sena.
With a strong foundation of fifteen-plus rich years at Spalding, I’m also confident about what’s ahead for our MFA Program. Perhaps one of the most important things Sena imparted to us is a long and strong history of working together in an environment of collegiality and creative freedom. I’m eager to continue that MFA work with Karen, Katy, Ellyn, and Jason, and I’m also very happy to welcome our new Associate Program Director, Lynnell Edwards.
Lynnell Edwards (Credit: John Nation)
Some of you may know that Lynnell has been a colleague at Spalding. Since 2010, she has served as an associate professor of English in the Liberal Studies program, and she’s an accomplished writer, having authored three full-length poetry collections, Covet (2011), The Highwayman’s Wife (2007) and The Farmer’s Daughter (2004), all from Red Hen Press. Lynnell has published fiction and book reviews in many literary venues. As I did, she will serve as a member of our poetry faculty.
In addition to her depth in creative and critical writing, Lynnell brings valued experience as a literary leader in our city and state. She is a founding member and former president of Louisville Literary Arts, which produces the InKY reading series and the Writer’s Block Festival here in Louisville. She served as a member of the well-respected Kentucky Women Writers Conference Board of Directors from 2012 to 2017.
Though officially Lynnell became APD on January 1, last year she was awarded a well-deserved sabbatical for spring 2018 and so will be away from campus from January 1 to June 30. On July 1, she will be in her new MFA office and assuming duties—though I expect she will drop into the May residency to do some lecturing.
Kiki Petrosino has accepted our invitation to become a member of the poetry faculty. Here’s a very short version of her professional accomplishments: In 2010, Kiki joined the University of Louisville as an Assistant Professor and in 2014, she was promoted to Associate Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing there. She is author of the poetry collections Witch Wife (2017)—hot off the presses and receiving marvelous acclaim—Hymn for the Black Terrific (2013), and Fort Red Border (2009), all from Sarabande Books. She is also author of three chapbooks: Black Genealogy (Brain Mill Press, 2017), Doubloon Oath (Flying Objects Press, 2016), and The Dark Is Here (Forklift, Ink, 2011). Her poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Best American Poetry, The New York Times, FENCE, Gulf Coast, Jubilat, Tin House, and online at Ploughshares. She is founder and co-editor of Transom, an independent online poetry journal. Her work was listed as Notable in The Best American Essays 2016. Last month, New York Times’ reviewer and columnist David Orr named Kiki’s new book Witch Wife one of the best poetry books of 2017. Kiki holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. There’s a lot more to say about her, but you get the gist.
Kiki is a fabulous addition to our faculty, as is Lynnell, and I’m delighted our students and alums will have an abundance of future opportunities to learn from these two expert writer-teachers, and perhaps also have the chance to catch a lecture from Sena when she drops back in to visit the Spalding MFA residency.