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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Spillway "Muse & Music" Roma-Deeley

Thrilled that my poem, "A Banjo Strums Itself to Sleep," is published in the poetry journal Spillway's "Muse & Music" edition alongside so many of my favorite poets, including: Norman Dubie, Jane Hirshfield, Cornelius Eady, Richard Krawiec, Eleanor Wilner and many more! Thank you Susan Terris!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Poem in Spring 2014 and/or journal

Excited to see my poem "Me and J. Alfred in the 21st Century" published in the Spring 2014 edition of and/or!

and/or is an international print journal devoted to publishing experimental creative writing and graphic art by writers and artists from around the world. and/or publishes one volume per year and follows a double-blind editorial process for all submissions.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Why Creative Writing Matters

First published on Superstition Review Blog


Guest Post, Lois Roma-Deeley: Still and in Our Own Age: Why Creative Writing Matters

Lois Roma-Deeley

You have heard it all before: No one reads anymore, buys books anymore, supports small presses anymore. Fiction is taking a beating from crass consumerism and poetry has been bludgeoned to death by a stylized ennui that has no patience for long sentences like this one.  Plays are either musicals or revivals of musicals. Anyone untalented can publish anything bad at any time in any format so no one has time to find the good writing.  The whole culture of American literature is in one sorry state.  Why should you—why should anyone—bother to write at all?

I am here to tell you that your poetry/short stories/essays/plays/novels—whatever your creative writing genre happens to be—matters. That your contribution to making the culture of our time matters. That your devotion to the craft of writing and your efforts to sit down and write with considered purpose and focus, or as Lucille Clifton has said, with major intent, matters.

I can say all this to you with some impunity because I have witnessed firsthand how the power of language—despite the protestations of all the cynics and the naysayers—moves audiences and readers in profound ways.

In 2012 I was nominated for U.S Professor of the Year, an awards program sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Of the award, The Chronicle of Higher Education writes: “The honor is the nation’s most prestigious teaching award.”

However, as a poet and a community college professor who teaches creative writing and women’s studies, I was certain I would never win such an award. I was certain I would not win—not because I was insecure or doubted my abilities as a poet and teacher, but precisely because I believed these abilities were at best misunderstood and, at worst, completely disregarded by most of America.

I only completed the application for the award because the very earnest and very sweet student who nominated me insisted that I do so. She sat in my office with her moon-eyes and her Tinkerbell-sweet voice insisting that I simply had to fill out the application which, as it turned out, wound up taking me 20-plus hours to complete.  I simply did not have the heart to tell her no. 

And even as she thrust the application material into my hand, I told her yet one more time that I was not going to win. “Poets don’t win these kinds of awards, Carolyn. Please don’t be disappointed when I don’t win. I’m not going to win.”

But she was right and I was wrong. I did win.

In fact, I am the first national winner of this award that Arizona has ever had in any category.  As a national winner, I was asked to give a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to an audience that included the U.S. Under Secretary of Education as well as college presidents and chancellors, deans and professors from all over the country.

Indeed, during the last few years I’ve had other successes, awards and honors, all of which have given me opportunities I would never have imagined possible when I was first starting out as a serious writer.

I have been invited to give poetry readings, speeches and workshops to audiences across the country, and I have seen the cultural cynics proved wrong many times over.  As I look into the faces of strangers whose eyes seem to lock onto mine with an intensity I find both humbling and scary, I have learned—rather I have re-learned—that language used with “major intent” is still a powerful, transforming force. People tell me they are moved by my words. People tell me they have been changed. People tell me the words matter.

So, to all of you who are sitting down today to write with major intent, know that your efforts—though solitary and so often fraught with frustration, longing and despair—matter.  Know that there may be one person or whole rooms of strangers who need and want to hear what you have to say. It matters to them the work you do.

It matters.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Words and Music" Northern Arizona Book Festival, 2013

With my friend and colleague composer Christopher Scinto and composer Judith Cloud,  I was part of a vibrant a panel discussion, moderated by Laura Kelly, on "Words and Music" at the Northern Arizona Book Festival in Flagstaff, Arizona.  It was an amazing discussion! Follow the links below for more information.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why the Imagination Matters

Below is the text of my keynote address that I gave at our college's graduation ceremony on May 10, 2013.

Dr. Dale, honored guests, colleagues, graduates and all who have gathered here to celebrate—thank you for this opportunity to speak to you tonight.

When I accepted my award for U.S. Professor of the Year last November at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. to an audience of educators representing colleges and universities across our country, I was thrilled.

I was—and am—proud to represent our college, our district and our state as well as the community college as a national institution. It was—is—an honor to “tell the story of us.”

Graduates, in this suspended moment, you are, no doubt, noticing that electric feeling which comes from alternating between relief and celebration,  liberation and excitement.

But sometime during this evening I ask you to reflect—not on what you have learned during your time at this college—

for surely, your diplomas and certificates testify to the knowledge you have mastered—

and your robes and mortarboards signify your accomplishments. Your transcripts stand  witness to your efforts—

Graduates, I am here to ask you this last question—a kind of final test:

What kind of person will you be in this world which is at once harsh and beautiful, vulgar and elegant, cynical and optimistic, threatening and brave?

Tonight I invite you to consider the person you have become—your values, beliefs, choices and commitments—who you are now  and who you hope to be.

Moreover, I ask you to reflect on this thought—you are here tonight because you have imagined yourselves here—you have imagined possibilities for your life and your place in the world.  And you have acted on the promises you made to yourselves born of those imaginings.

For some, during your time at our college, you pictured yourselves sitting here at this great gathering, even as you took a full load of classes and worked full-time—in or outside the home—

for others, you saw your name on a college diploma or certificate, framed handsomely on your  wall.

And you saw this image even as the printer ran out of ink, your car had a flat tire just before you headed out for class;

you saw this image in your mind’s eye even when a family member or friend or work colleague needed your full attention as you prepared to study for a major test.

You saw all this even when your finances ran dangerously low or, in some cases, completely out—

There are graduates sitting here tonight—you who took classes, wrote papers, gave presentations, joined programs and assumed leadership positions that challenged or exhilarated and perhaps even scared you a little—or a lot—

you who believed in this day, the time when you would be welcomed into the community of scholars.

There are as many stories of hard work and persistence as there are graduates tonight.
Whatever your specific story, you all are here tonight because you did not give up.

Your imagination led you to choices, your choices created actions, your actions brought you here.

The dreams you had for yourself and your life when you first came to us  may have changed. Perhaps they have grown larger. Perhaps they have multiplied.  But these dreams were—and are—of consequence.

You are here because you believed in a future for yourself in which—despite obstacles
big and small—your intelligence, energy, discipline, curiosity and seriousness of purpose would bring you to this very place many call “successful.”

But I am here to tell you that your faculty and staff also imagined this night.

Those on our campus who—in and outside of the classroom—taught, mentored, cajoled, pushed and challenged you.

The dreams your faculty and staff had for you  were realized in the courses we teach, the programs we run, the buildings we help build, the debates we engage in, the lives we touch. 

We dream the dream of those educators who came before us and those who will come after us. Those who believe that only citizens of an educated culture can grow into their best selves.

And we, like our graduates, acted on those hopes.

Yet, there is another force operating in and on the imagination of what education can and should be.

Graduates, your community members, family and friends had—and have—visions for and of you. Their dreams may be strictly personal or they may be more eclectic—but they, too, are backed by action.

And, as importantly, these dreams are firmly rooted in the democratic ideal which says that where fairness and access meet determination and persistence, a “more perfect union” is formed.

So tonight—Graduates, Faculty, Staff, Community Members—here we sit—the living manifestations of  hope—

for together we have imagined our future.

—Lois Roma-Deeley
May 2013

Saturday, April 6, 2013

USF: The Poetry of Inspiration and Application

The University of South Florida invited me --and the three other 2012 U.S. Professors of the Year: Christy Price from Dalton State College in Georgia; Todd Pagano from Rochester Institute of Technology in New York; and USF’s own Autar Kaw --to participate in the university's third annual Student Success Conference. It was the first time that all four U.S. Professors of the Year met outside of the official Washington D.C. U. S Professor of the Year Award event held in Nov. 2012.

It was a whirlwind of a day--and night--on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 when I was reunited with my U.S. Professors of the Year colleagues. The main event, a town hall meeting, saw more than 300 faculty, staff and students in attendance and lasted well over two hours.  Dr. Ralph Wilcox, USF Provost served as moderator.  He began by asking us, the panel, specific and varied questions about teaching, current educational challenges and our visions and hopes for the future of education. Dr. Wilcox then turned the meeting over to the audience for an extended question and answer period. 

Below are various links to some videos and articles which will give a fuller account of a truly inspiring day.

I use the word "inspiring" deliberately.  For what I found at the formal meeting, in the audience, on the campus, during informal talks with high ranking administrators as well as "in-the-trenches" administrators, teachers and students was a community of educators who are deeply committed to creating excellence in and outside of the classroom

This is an organization that is not afraid to have a vision. For example, just walk through the campus and see the huge "Make an Impact" banner reminding us that education is so much more than just about making money. This university not afraid of  the work toward the application of the “Make an Impact”  vision...hence the town hall and myriad specific resources devoted to student success.

And student success seems to be defined as “human success.”

Moreover, the university is not afraid of graciousness--hence the endless rounds of "Autar, you so deserve this!"  These statements, and the culture from which they stem, were heard over and over again from faculty and staff alike as we walked with Autor Kaw around his campus. These folks like each other, support each other and they value kindness, modesty, generosity as well as academic excellence.

As I return to my classes today and this week at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix, Az I will remember that I am not alone in my efforts to help create an educated, civil, gracious citizenry through the privilege of the higher educational experience. I  will remember that not only do I have like-minded, hard working, committed friends and colleagues  at my own college but 3,000 miles away at USF and other sister institutions there are others who, day-by-day, student-by student, labor--in big ways and small--to make a better world.

And I know there are some out there reading this—or not—who think I am too idealistic or whatnot—and I will ask them this question: What do you do to make our country a better place? I will say to them what I said at the end of my talk at USF…

“What we do matters….I don’t care what anyone says, this is how you change the world.”

(from l. to right: Autar Kaw, Lois Roma-Deeley, Christy Price, Todd Pagano)