The English Department at Clemson University began the year by welcoming a new member to a brand new faculty position: Writer-in-Residence. The first person to occupy this role is the poet Desiree C. Bailey.
“As the 2020 Yale Younger Prize winner and National Book Award finalist, Desiree C. Bailey has risen to the top of a highly competitive pool of applicants,” said Will Stockton, Chair of the English Department. “We hope she will bring her rich knowledge of poetry – its global history and the work of its composition – to the classroom, inspiring our students in their own acts of creativity.”
Bailey is the author of two books and a range of short stories and poems. Her collection of poetry, “What Noise Against the Cane” (Yale University Press, 2021), has been widely acclaimed: finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry and the Kate Tufts Award, shortlisted for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature and the International Dylan Thomas Award and winner of the 2020 Yale Series of Younger Award. In 2016, she published the fiction book “In Dirt or Saltwater” (O’clock Press). His work has appeared in “Best American Poetry”,
“Best New Poets”, “American Short Fiction”, “Callaloo” and “Academy of American Poets”.
“This program allows me as a writer to have a space to work, but also to contribute to the community, to bring writers into the community, and to be a champion of the literary arts,” Bailey said.
The Writer-in-Residence program at Clemson is an initiative of College of Architecture, Arts, and Humanities Dean Nicholas Vazsonyi. “The idea serves several purposes,” he explained, “nurturing the work of talented student writers, providing space for the writer-in-residence to pursue their creative work in an environment of extraordinary natural beauty, enrich campus and community life through readings and hosting writers’ events, and bring national awareness and prestige to Clemson’s growing creative writing program.
Bailey’s writings address recurring themes of migration, particularly focusing on Caribbean culture and the African diaspora. Born in Trinidad, Bailey grew up in Queens, New York. Her career has taken her to places as far away as Cape Town, South Africa, but Clemson is her first stop in the southeastern United States.
“I tend to approach the world through the lens of place, maybe because of that first experience of moving and having to encounter a new place,” she said. “So every time I move, maybe I go back to that initial experience. It’s funny to say that I’m kind of rooted in this movement and this migration, which seems like a paradox, but I think that’s really where I’m at.
Reflecting on the experience of migrants, his writings examine the challenges of black life in America, ranging from family tensions to state violence. In her story “In Dirt and Saltwater”, she illustrates how these challenges amplify each other.
“Throughout my work, I always think about how these experiences – which can be seen as political – live inside and impact the body and our personal relationships,” she said.
Fresh off the publication of ‘What Noise Against the Cane’, which was a five-year project, Bailey plans to work on both fiction and poetry writing at Clemson in addition to sharing her knowledge with students. . She has a BA from Georgetown University, an MFA in fiction from Brown University, and an MFA in poetry from New York University, and she has received residencies and fellowships from the Norman Mailer Center, Kimbilio Fiction, Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop, Poets House, The Conversation, Princeton in Africa and the James Merrill House.
Asked about her best advice to budding writers, she cited poet Yusef Komunyakaa’s warning to “keep the faith”.
“You’re not always going to like what you create on a particular day, but it’s necessary to have faith that it will come to fruition and that those people and places you dream of will actually materialize, become something real, and you can imagine yourself becoming the writer you would like to be.
Established in 1996, the College of Architecture, Arts, and Humanities celebrates a unique combination of disciplines – architecture; Art; Town planning; Construction Science and Management; English; Story; Languages ; performing arts; Philosophy; Religion; Real Estate Development and Interdisciplinary Studies – which empowers Clemson University students to imagine, create and connect. CAAH strives to unite the pursuit of knowledge with the practical application of that knowledge to build a better and more beautiful world.
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