Award-winning poet gives students something to write home about

Brooke Sjoberg

The University added another famous name to its faculty roster this fall. 

Roger Reeves, award-winning poet and UT alumnus, has returned to campus as an associate poetry writing professor. Reeves said the importance of creativity is a lesson he wishes to impart to his students whom he said he already recognizes as a fount of creativity, able to change the world around them into the kind of world they want to live in.

“I just want my students to know one thing,” Reeves said. “I am ready for them.” 

Reeves published his first book, “King Me,” in 2013. The book features a collection of his poetry, which addresses topics such as race, identity and Christianity. Reeves has earned many awards such as the Whiting Award and the 2013 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Reeves’ poetry has appeared in publications such as the Boston Review, Poetry and Tin House.

Reeves said he loves being able to observe the creative process taking place in his classroom. 

“Most of my students are already artists before they come into my class,” Reeves said. “They’re in band, or they do something else creative. That’s what I like about the students here — they already have so much creativity. I want them to know I want to take their work seriously, that I take them seriously.”

Reeves obtained his Master of Fine Arts and doctorate degrees from UT. Reeves previously taught as an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Though he has only been teaching at UT for a little over a week, associate professor Lisa Olstein said she is already pleased with the new addition to the English department.

“It’s already clear how much generosity of spirit, keenness of intellect and infectious passion infuse his approach,” Olstein said. “I’m thrilled that we’ve gained a poet of such talent who is deeply dedicated not only to his craft but also to teaching as a meaningful and potentially transformative work.”

The addition of Reeves to the English department is a testament to its ranking among the best schools in the nation. Avery Leblanc, an English and history sophomore, sees this as nothing short of a given.

“In addition to a rigorous but fulfilling academic environment, the English department exposes students to professors and faculty who genuinely care about their content area and students,” Leblanc said.