In Fall 2014, I became the new Chair of the UW English Department. I am humbled and honored by this opportunity to work with my faculty colleagues and the department’s staff to create and sustain an inclusive, rewarding community where students from all backgrounds can learn, grow, and thrive. I first came to the University of Washington back in September, 2000, and I am a little in awe—and a lot proud—whenever I stop and remember that this is my fifteenth year teaching at a globally ranked and celebrated university in one of the very top English programs in the country. (Just this January USA TODAY ranked us the third best place to study for an undergraduate degree in English in the United States, ahead of such heavyweights as Berkeley, Harvard, and Yale. Go Huskies!) During my term as Chair, I hope to carry on the institution’s illustrious traditions while also helping the department to adapt to the challenges and opportunities of the post-millennial, digital present.
I trust that you will join me in expressing thanks to Gary Handwerk for his eight years as Chair. He has successfully guided us through the gravest financial crisis in generations while also protecting and advancing our interests, and those of the humanities more generally, in innumerable ways. Please also join me in congratulating Anis Bawarshi, who has graciously agreed to become our new Associate Chair. I look forward to collaborating with him and learning from his wisdom and experience.
Who am I? I come from a long line of Kentuckians, at least seven generations. Although I left the Bluegrass State long ago, I still know my square dance calls up to “advanced level two,” and beans, greens, and cornbread remain my ultimate comfort food. And while I may have lost most of my Appalachian accent, I still can’t tell the difference between short e and short i unless I struggle mightily (I pronounce Lennon, Lenin, and linen the same).
I am a specialist in the study of modern and contemporary poetry. I’m your guy if you’re looking for somebody to teach a class that includes writers such as Gwendolyn Brooks, T.S. Eliot, Allen Ginsberg, Seamus Heaney, Sylvia Plath, and Derek Walcott. I’ve written three books, most recently Nobody’s Business: Twenty-First Century Avant-Garde Poetics (2013), and I have a fourth one, a collection of essays, that should be out by year’s end. Right now I’m finishing an article on Gertrude Stein’s response to World War I; it began life as a keynote talk I delivered in December at a conference in Shanghai.
What else? I’m a social media junky. You can find me on Twitter under the handle @bmreeduw. I live with my husband Chuck Krysieniel in the Central District, along with our rambunctious pony-sized cat Oliver. If you want to know more—or would like to talk about your favorite poet, or about the future of higher education—you can usually find me in the English Department Main Office in Padelford Hall, trying vainly to keep up with all the email that needed to be answered yesterday.
BRIAN REED, Chair