During her tenure teaching creative writing and women’s literature at Loyola Marymount University, Professor Gail Wronsky has been nominated to be California Poet Laureate, and has won multiple research grants including a California Arts Council Grant and multiple LMU Summer Research Grants. Last spring, she added the Daum Professorship to that list of awards. The Daum Professorship only goes to faculty who have exhibited a record of excellence in teaching and advising, scholarship or creative work, and service and leadership in their department, college, and university. Nominees must demonstrate consistent excellence in all areas of faculty responsibility commensurate with rank. “I don’t know what convinced the committee to award me the Daum.” Wronsky says. “I think they found the project–me collaborating with the artist Gronk, a queer Chicanx painter who has exhibited at MOCA, LACMA, the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, and internationally—interesting in terms of its interdisciplinary nature and its focus on Los Angeles.” Wronsky is writing poems to accompany a series of drawings by Gronk called ‘coffee drawings.’ She also credits her body of work for convincing the committee that she “would, in fact, complete the project [she had] proposed.”
Having taken a course with Professor Wronsky, this student can attest to her professionalism and responsiveness in and out of the classroom as well as the usefulness of her writing advice. In her flash fiction course, Professor Wronsky taught me numerous techniques for generating concise and well-structured stories. When asked if she credits a philosophy, set of habits, or idea for her consistent excellence in and out of the classroom, Wronsky had this to say: “In terms of a philosophy or idea that informs my work at LMU, the one conviction I have that motivates me is that all of my students are intelligent human beings deserving of respect and inspiration. I try to inspire my students, the way my poetry professors inspired me, to be not only better, more imaginative writers but also more open-minded and aware people. I find it an honor to teach and I try to bring my best self to the classroom every class. Teaching at LMU has been a wonderful experience—I adore my students who, for the most part, have been smart, thoughtful, aware of social justices and injustices, and eager to learn.”
The award allowed Wronsky to take two course remissions in the fall semester and work on “Coffee Poems,” of which she wrote thirty. This semester, Professor Wronsky is back to her normal teaching load, but is excused from most departmental meetings and committee work to continue her writing for the project. “I tell you, it’s been wonderful so far, and I expect this semester to be a productive one in terms of my writing.” She was kind enough to provide one such Coffee Poem for publication:
The black bird says I love you
Bob Dylan smoked cigarettes. Wish I still could.
Wish I’d written the book called USEFUL INFORMATION
FOR THE SOON-TO-BE-BEHEADED. Wish I’d
written the phrase “like the blindness of noon.”
My mother wielded a mean stapler.
In my mind,
I’m hanging on to a branch swept by wind.
More can be found on her Instagram @poetwronsky. In addition to the “Coffee Poems,” Professor Wronsky has a forthcoming collection of new and selected poetry, “Under the Capsized Boat We Fly: New and Selected Poems.” White Pine Press will publish the collection in 2021.
This post is by Schuyler Vanderveen ’21, a student in the Graduate English Program.