Susan B.A. Somers-Willett
Susan B.A. Somers-Willett
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Montclair State University English Department

Carnegie Mellon University Center for Arts in Society

Carnegie Mellon University English Department

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign English Department

University of Texas at Austin Ph.D. Program in English

University of Texas at Austin M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing

Duke University

Duke in New York Arts Program (NYU)

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Teaching and Adminstrative Experience

Selected Honors and Awards

Other Professional Experience

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2003 | Doctor of Philosophy, American Literature
The University of Texas at Austin
With study in African American Studies, Women’s Studies, Poetry, and Cultural Studies
Developed the graduate concentration in Poetry and Poetics

1998 | Master of Arts, Creative Writing (Poetry)
The University of Texas at Austin

1995 | Bachelor of Arts, Anthropology and Women’s Studies
Duke University
Phi Beta Kappa, Cum Laude

Fall 1993 | Duke in New York Arts Program
New York University

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2009 | The Cultural Politics of Slam Poetry: Race, Identity, and the Performance of Popular Verse in America (criticism)
University of Michigan Press

2009 | Quiver (poetry)
VQR Series in Poetry, University of Georgia Press
Winner of the Writer’s League of Texas Book Award

2006 | Roam (poetry)
Crab Orchard Series, Southern Illinois University Press
Winner of the Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry Open Competition

Selected Poetry

2015 | “On Signs,” An Uncommon Book of Prayer: An Anthology of Poetry, Ed. Matthew Vollmer.

2014 | “Birds, In Flight,” 99 Poems for the 99 Percent: An Anthology of Poetry, Ed. Dean Rader.

2013 | “Tallahatchie,” The Pushcart Prize XXXVIII: The Best of the Small Presses (forthcoming).

2013 | “Downtown Zoetrope,” “Bagram,” “Three Views of a Souvenir,” “Looking at Photographs in Which Our Faces Do Not Appear,” and “Uptown Zoetrope.” the minnesota review 80, Duke University Press (Spring).

2012 | “Matter and Void,” American Scientist, (September-October).

2012 | “Memento Mori” and “On Cancer,” Gulf Coast 25.1 (Fall).

2012 | “Tallahatchie,” Orion (May/June).

2012 | “Birds, In Flight,” 99 Poems for the 99 Percent blog (January 31).

2012 | “Oppenheimer’s Lament,” Villanelles, Eds. Annie Finch and Marie-Elizabeth Mali, Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets Series (Random House).

2011 | “Cry Baby” Columbia Poetry Review (Spring).

2011 | “Sugar: A Blues” The Pinch (Spring).

Fall 2009 | “Women of Troy” Suite of six poems aired on PRI’s Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen and published in Virginia Quarterly Review

Summer 2009 | “Insomnia Chiaroscuro” Borderlands

2008 | “The Last Known Confederate Civil War Widow Writes from the Dead Letter Office of Heaven” and “Insomnia Chiaroscuro” If These Walls Could Speak installation, Blanton Museum of Art.

Summer/Fall 2008 | “Half-Life” Gulf Coast

April 2008 | “The Golden Lesson” The Iowa Review

Winter 2007 | “Petites Curie” and “Object Lesson: Horses” Indiana Review

Fall/Winter 2007 | “Campanology” and “Oppenheimer’s Lament” West Branch

Spring 2007 | “Girl, 7, Seeking U.S. Flight Record, Dies in Crash” and “The Birds” Connecticut Review

Spring 2007 | “The Order of a House” and “Cotyledon” Pebble Lake Review

2007 | “Ophelia’s Technicolor G-String” and “The Gift” Spoken Word Revolution Redux (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks)

October 2006 | “What the Doctors Forget to Tell You About Morphine” Poets & Writers Online

2006 | “Thaw and the Beginning of Everything” Painted Bride Quarterly Issue 75

Summer 2006 | “Notes for Living in NOLA” RATTLE

8 May 2006| “Cow Song Verse Daily, Poem of the Day

Winter/Spring 2006 | “Decorum,” “The Boy Who Would Be Achilles,” “Cow SongCrab Orchard Review

Spring 2006 | “Darwin Strikes a Match,” “First Sex,” “My Natural History” Virginia Quarterly Review

2006 | “Polaris” Southern California Anthology, Vol. XXI (Ann Stanford Prize)

Spring/Summer 2005 | “Virginia Dare (i-vi)” Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review

Spring 2005 | “Celestial Music” GSU Review (Finalist, Annual Writing Contest)

Spring 2005 | “Circus Acts: Ring One,” “Circus Acts: Ring Three,” “The Naming of Eve” The Cream City Review

Spring 2004 | “Heat” iris: a journal about women

Summer/Fall 2003 | “Cowboys and Indians” The St. Ann’s Review

Fall 2002 | “A Note on the Type” Spoon River Poetry Review (Finalist, Editor’s Prize)

Spring 2000 | “Circe with Her Hair Down,” “Where He Lives Rhymes with Rome,” “Self-Portrait as Interstate 10” The Madison Review (Winner of the Phillis Smart Young Prize in Poetry)

1999 | “Ophelia’s Technicolor G-String” Earth’s Daughters 52: Mask

Winter 1997-1998 | “Dedications for a Birmingham Clinic” Beloit Poetry Journal

Spring/Summer 1998 | “The Blood Club” Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review

Fall/Winter 1998 | “A Pain, A Fencepost, A Black-and-White Film” Hayden’s Ferry Review

Fall 1996 | “My Father’s Absence in Africa,” “The Gift,” “What the Doctors Forget to Tell You About Morphine,” “In Memory of a Girl” Spoon River Poetry Review

Nonfiction Essays

2013 | “Natasha Trethewey’s ‘Myth’.” Voltage Poetry, eds. Kim Addonizio and Michael Thuene.

2012 | “The Place Where I Write.” Orion (July/August).

2012 | “Poetry is Dead. Long Live Poetry! Some Thoughts on Poetry in the American Public Sphere” Creative Research Center Guest Blog (April)

2009 | “The City Ablaze Virginia Quarterly Review (Fall).

2009 | “Through the Invisible Cloak: Some Problems and Possibilities of Being a White Reader of African American Poetry” RATTLE #31 (Summer)

2007 | "Can Slam Poetry Matter?" Introduction, Tribute Issue Celebrating Poetry Slam’s 21st Anniversary RATTLE #27 (Summer)

Scholarly Articles

2015 | “From Slam to Def Poetry Jam: Spoken Word Poetry and its Counterpublics”
Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies

Fall 2006 | “Def Poetry’s Public: Spoken Word Poetry and the Racial Politics of Going Mainstream”
Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies

Spring 2005 | “Slam Poetry and the Cultural Politics of Performing Identity”
Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association

Spring 2003 | “Authenticating Voices: Slam Poetry, Politics, and Performances of Black Identity”
Mantis Journal of Poetry and Poetics 3, Stanford University

Spring 2002 | “Representing” Slam Poetry: Ambivalence, Gender, and Black Authenticity in Slam
Text, Practice, Performance Journal of Cultural Studies 3.1

2000 | “Group Piece Discussion on the Group Piece”
Co-authored with Mike Henry, Karyna McGlynn, Danny Solis, Genevieve Van Cleve, Hilary Thomas, Phil West, and Wammo
Poetry Slam: The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry, Ed. Gary Mex Glazner, San Francisco: Manic D Press.

Multimedia and Installations

2010 | Wild Animals I Have Known (a multimedia palimpsest) [HTML] [PDF] | Texas Landmarks Commission, The University of Texas at Austin

2009 | “Women of Troy” multimedia slideshow, a collaboration with Lu Olkowski (radio) and Brenda Ann Kenneally (photography).

2009 | In Verse: "Women of Troy" Studio 360 with Kurt Anderson (November 6, 16 min.)

Women of Troy on Studio 360: Part 1

Women of Troy on Studio 360: Part 2

2009 | Word of Mouth, New Hampshire Public Radio (December 9, 10 min).

2009 | “Just a Girl,” BBC Radio 4 Americana (November 22, 6 min).

2008 | “The Last Known Confederate Civil War Widow Writes from the Dead Letter Office of Heaven” and “Insomnia Chiaroscuro,” If These Walls Could Speak installation, Blanton Museum of Art.

2007 | Poetry Foundation Podcast (June 11, 14 min).

Interviews and Press

2012 | Cited Authority: “Since '84, City Poetry Scene Has Thrived, but What's Next?” by Naomi Nix, Chicago Tribune (April 19).

2011 | "On Representing "The City and Its Women": An Interview with Susan B.A. Somers-Willett, Part I and Part II Viz.

2010 | “Women of Troy: A Documentary Poem” by Danielle Blau, The New Yorker Book Bench (June 10).

2010 | “Performance Poetry Hits the Mainstream” by Dave McGinn, Globe and Mail (February 28).

2010 | Nieman Storyboard interview, Neiman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University

2009 | "Women of Troy: Upstate Girls" by Wayne Trujillo, Huffington Post

2009 | "In Verse: The Making of 'Women of Troy'", a Peabody Award-winning website discussing innovation in public radio

2009 | “Six Questions for Susan Somers-Willett” VQR Blog

June 3, 2009 | “Is Slam in Danger of Going Soft?” by Larry Rohter, New York Times

Summer 2009 | BOOK/TALK: Conversation with Slam Poetry Scholar Susan B.A. Somers-Willett The Arts Politic Inaugural Issue

June 2007 | "Performing the Academy" Cover Story by Jeremy Richards, Poetry Foundation Website

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Teaching and Adminstrative Experience

2014-present | Assistant Vice President of Research and Policy, Division of Diversity and Community Engagement
The University of Texas at Austin

2013-2014 | Associate Director of Communications, Office of the Vice President, Division of Diversity and Community Engagement
The University of Texas at Austin

2009-2013 | Assistant Professor, English Department
Montclair State University

2008-2009 | Visiting Writer and Lecturer, English Department
The University of Texas at Austin

2006-2007 | Visiting Fellow, Center for the Arts in Society
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

2004-2006 | Visiting Assistant Professor, English Department
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

2001-2003 | Assistant Director of the Creative Writing Program
The University of Texas at Austin

1998-2002 | Assistant Instructor, English Department
The University of Texas at Austin

To view courses taught and course websites, visit the Teaching page.

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Selected Honors and Awards

Writing Honors

2014 | Pushcart Prize for “Tallahatchie,” originally published in Orion.

2012 | Center for the Book Arts Chapbook Competition, Honorable Mention (broadside publication).

2010 | Writers’ League of Texas Book Award for best book of poetry for Quiver.

2010 | Gracie Award for “In Verse: Women of Troy,” Outstanding Soft News Feature, Alliance for Women in Media (formerly American Women in Radio and Television).

2010 | Distinguished Entry, Campbell Corner Poetry Prize, Sarah Lawrence College.

2010 | 3rd Place, The Pinch Literary Award in Poetry for “Sugar: A Blues.”

2009 | 2nd Place, The Missouri Review Audio Award for “ Women of Troy.”

2008 | Finalist, Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award

2006 | Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review

2006 | Helen C. Smith Award for Best Book of Poetry Finalist, Texas Institute of Letters

2006 | Pushcart Prize nomination, Southern Illinois University Press

2005 | Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry Open Competition, second place winner for Roam (book publication and $1500)

2005 | Robert Frost Foundation Poetry Award

2004 | Ann Stanford Poetry Prize, Southern California Anthology

2000 | Phillis Smart Young Prize in Poetry The Madison Review (University of Wisconsin at Madison)

1995 | Louis Sudler Prize for Excellence in the Arts, Duke University ($5,000 prize given to one graduate annually)

1994| Academy of American Poets Award, Duke University


July 2013 | Hedgebrook

June 2007 | Hedgebrook

July 2005 | Millay Colony for the Arts, Martha Martin Fellow

November 2004 | I-Park Artist’s Enclave

Summer 2004 | Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity, Northwood University

Summer 1994 | Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets, Stadler Center for Poetry

Grants, Fellowships, and Teaching Awards

2015-2016  |   National Endowment for the Arts Individual Creative Writing Fellowship.

2012-2013 | Manuscript, Archive, and Rare Books Library Short-Term Fellowship, Emory University.

2009 | City of Austin Artist Opportunity Grant

2006-2007 | Center for the Arts in Society Visiting Scholar Fellowship, Carnegie Mellon University

2004-2006 | Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

2002-2003 | American Dissertation Fellowship, American Association of University Women (one of fifty-one $20,000 fellowships awarded nationwide)

2002-2003 | Keene Fellowship for Exceptional Contributions in Creative Writing, The University of Texas at Austin

2001-2002 | J.M. Coetzee Distinguished Alumnus Fellowship, The University of Texas at Austin

2000-2001 | Nomination, Teaching Excellence Award, The University of Texas at Austin

2005-2006 | Nomination, Outstanding Teacher Award, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

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Other Professional Experience

2013-present | Campus Climate Response Team, The University of Texas at Austin.

2012, 2014 | Consultant, The Performance Poetry Preservation Project (P4).

2012 | Peer Reviewer, Bedford/St. Martin’s Press.

2011 |  Judge, Virginia Tech annual MFA poetry prize.

2009-present |  Advisory Board, Yale Anthology of Rap (Yale Univ. Press, forthcoming 2010)

2007, 2009 | Contributing Editor, RATTLE

2003-2004 | Editor, Holt, Rinehart and Winston (a division of Harcourt Publishing)

Summer 2002, 2001-2003 | Graduate Research Assistant and Lab Staff, Computer Writing and Research Lab, The University of Texas at Austin

1998 | Co-Editor, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review

1996 | Production and Office Manager, Juno Books, New York City

1993 | Production Staff, Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine, New York City

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A listing of conferences, readings, and lectures are available in the PDF of the full vita.