A DAUGHTER GOES HOME
January 7, 2013
Dear Facebook Family,
After twenty years of living in Lexington and teaching at the University of Kentucky, I have accepted a teaching position at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
Over these last twenty years I have often told the story of my UK beginnings; a chance meeting with the great novelist, Percival Everett, in 1989 in Charleston, S.C.: his quick outlandish question asking whether I might be interested in a temporary teaching job in the English department at UK, the surprising invitation asking me to join the department for one year as a Visiting Writer. At the time of the invitation, I was living in California, working as the all-night shift manager of Kinkos's Copies. My first book had been published a few years before but with no real live models of how to be a writer in this world I remained a dreamy-eyed poet romanticizing the notion of how to pay the rent and how to keep writing. I had never ventured to or even through the state of Kentucky before. My seventh sense said Don't. But my eighth sense said Take the job – but take it for one year and one year only. Finish your next book. That initial invitation, gave me, a thirty-year-old poet, with one book of poetry, a chance to do something that I had never had the chance to do before – focus solely on teaching & writing. I finished my next book. It all worked out beautifully.
My decision to leave UK at this time is a daughter's decision. My mother and father are 79 and 82 respectively, and in need of more and more of me as time flies. After twenty years of driving through the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina in order to get to them, it is now time to remove those seven hours and those winding roads, that I feel I know every bump and curve of from the equation. After thirty-eight years of being away from South Carolina it is time to go home. I feel there are projects waiting on me there, books to write on that home soil, and students to nurture and guide. The University of South Carolina, graciously, made me an offer I could not refuse.
I will remain at UK through the end of this year's contract, June 30, 2013. After that I will join the faculty at USC on August 1, 2013. I have accepted the John H. Bennett, Jr. Chair in Creative Writing and Southern Literature. This is a joint appointment in the English Language and Literature department and the African American Studies program. I will also be teaching in USC's wonderful MFA Creative Writing program. This will not be an easy or quick move for any residents of the poet's house. AJ, Ailey, and the poet are all in quite a spin. We don't yet have it all worked out. AJ's novel will be out in 2014. In the meantime, A.J. will continue teaching in the M.F.A. program at Lesley University, in Cambridge, while Ailey is readying herself for her grand first year of high school.
I wanted you to know.
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