English professor deNiord appointed Vermont’s poet laureate

Chard-deNiord 1Editor’s Note: On Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. in the Ruane Center for the Humanities’ Great Room, Chard deNiord will read selected poems from his book, Interstate. The event is open to the College community.

BY CHRIS MACHADO

Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme or read like a melancholy song lyric. It’s not something to be set aside for funerals or a teenager’s journal. Those are limitations. To Chard deNiord, poetry is a limitless art form.

For deNiord, professor of English at Providence College, poetry “is about the drama of everyday lives,” which is something that he will attempt to impart upon his fellow Vermonters for the next four years as that state’s poet laureate.

On Monday, Nov. 2, during a ceremony at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, deNiord will be installed as poet laureate by Gov. Peter Shumlin. He will be the state’s eighth poet laureate — forever joining a gilded collection of poets that includes Galway Kinnell, Ruth Stone, and Robert Frost.

“I’m deeply humbled and stunned by this appointment,” deNiord said. “The senior generations of Vermont poets were national treasures. So, I feel a really big responsibility to maintain this rich tradition of poetry — without feeling as worthy.”

A calling to poetry

The way deNiord explains it, his passion for poetry began in high school. “I just wrote a few lines, and it was a different type of writing that intrigued me,” he said. “It was enough to compel me to continue writing.”

That calling to write poetry, which deNiord said has been a conscious and unconscious passion throughout his career, has led him to esteemed heights in teaching and the literary world. After earning a master’s of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School and a master’s of fine arts (MFA) from the famed Iowa Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa, deNiord taught at The Putney School, a co-educational boarding high school in Putney, Vt., for nearly a decade.

Since 1998, he’s been a creative writing faculty member at PC — a teaching tenure so respected by his students and colleagues that he was awarded the 2011-12 Joseph R. Accinno Faculty Teaching Award, the College’s most prestigious teaching honor. While teaching at the College, deNiord also co-founded the MFA program at New England College and served as its director from 2000-07. In addition, he was named the Bruce McEver Visiting Chair in Writing at the Georgia Institute of Technology and was a faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College’s Summer Writer’s Seminar in 2010.

Away from the classroom, deNiord has written six books of poetry, including his latest, Interstate (The University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015); one book of interviews and essays, Sad Friends, Drowned Lovers, Stapled Songs, Interviews and Reflections on Contemporary American Poets (Marick Press, 2011); and has contributed to several literary journals and poetry anthologies, including the Pushcart Book of Poetry, The Best Poems from Thirty Years of the Pushcart Prize (Pushcart Press, 2007).

“There’s a period when you fall in love with song lyrics or poetry, but are you going to do that for the rest of your life?” deNiord said. “For some reason, it didn’t leave me. I’ve always found meaning in it.”

Promoting poetry

While he has no specific directives from the state’s arts council or the governor to carry out as poet laureate, deNiord noted that his predecessor, Sydney Lea, visited more than 100 libraries during his tenure. He expects to take a somewhat similar “on the road” approach by visiting schools, retirement homes, and prisons, as well as editing an anthology of Vermont poets.

“Nobody is telling me what to do. It’s up to me,” he explained. “Whenever I am able, I’m going to try my best to promote poetry throughout Vermont and beyond.”

More about Chard deNiord:

Books

  • Interstate, The University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015
  • The Double Truth, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011
  • Speaking in Turn (with Tony Sanders), Gnomon Press, 2011
  • Sad Friends, Drowned Lovers, Stapled Songs, Interviews and Reflections on Contemporary American Poets, Marick Press, 2011
  • Night Mowing, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005
  • Sharp Golden Thorn, Marsh Hawk Press, 2003
  • Asleep in the Fire, The University of Alabama Press, The Alabama Poetry Series, 1990

Honors and Prizes

  • Best American Poetry: “Pasternak,” 1999
  • Pushcart Prize XXII: “What The Animals Teach Us,” 1998
  • Poetry Fellow, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, 1994
  • Poetry Fellow, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, 1991

Professional Organization Memberships

  • Associated Writing Programs
  • Association of Literary Scholars and Critics

 

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