Matthew Olzmann, this year’s recipient of the Beebe Fellowship, is a poet whose work has appeared in the New England Review, the Kenyon Review, the Southern Review, and Gulf Coast. His forthcoming first book, Mezzanines, which “owes a huge debt to the MFA program at Warren Wilson”, won the 2011 Kundiman Prize and will be publishedin April 2013 bythe Alice James Press. Impressive, and even more so in that while creating this outstanding work, he was also teaching—more often than not in his own Detroit community.
For the past ten years, Matthew has worked with InsideOut, a program of the Detroit Public School district that not only provides an opportunity for students to express themselves by placing writers like Olzmann in classrooms to teach creative writing, but does so at a time when most schools in the district have cut their art and music programs entirely. Outside of this, Matthew has also volunteered as a writing mentor for the DAY Project (Detroit Asian Youth), led poetry workshops through Springfed Arts, taught composition at Oakland Community College, and in the fall of 2011, was the Poet-in-residence for the Univeristy of Michigan’s Alice Lloyd Hall Scholars Program.
Now, as this year’s Beebe Fellow, Olzmann will continue to share his teaching and writing talents with the undergradutes at Warren Wilson. He is most excited to continue the tradition of the MFA program by teaching students to “read as writers”. Olzmann says, “By this, I mean the lectures and workshops at the residencies, the craft annotations, the degree essay, the letters to my faculty supervisors, and the graduate lecture that I prepared were the primary forums in which I learned to discuss craft elements in a piece of writing and the effects those devices have on readers. For me, teaching is a natural extension of that discourse. I’m excited about beginning that conversation with a younger generation of writers in Warren Wilson’s undergraduate program.”
As he has done for the past ten years, Olzmann will continue working on his own writing projects alongside his teaching responsibilities. At the moment, he is working on a connected group of poems that all take place in a fictional museum, several prose poems and flash fictions, as well as a collection of narrative essays about mixed race identity.
I, for one, can’t wait to read them.