Profile photo of Dr. Richard Jackson
Dr. Richard Jackson
UT National Alumni Association Distinguished Service Professor
Ph.D., Yale University
  Holt 333
Richard Jackson has published over twenty books including thirteen books of poems, 3 anthologies, 2 critical books, 2 books of translations (from Slovene and from Italian) and two edited editions by Slovene poets. His most recent books of poems are  Retrievals(CR Press, 2014), Out of Place (Ashland, 2014), and Resonancia (Barcelona, 2014, a translation of Resonance  from Ashland, 2010), He was awarded the Order of Freedom Medal for literary and humanitarian work in the Balkans by the President of Slovenia in reward for his work with the Slovene-based Peace and Sarajevo Committees of PEN International. He has received Guggenheim, NEA, NEH, and two Witter-Bynner fellowships, a Prairie Schooner Reader's Choice Award, several book awards, and the Crazyhorse prize, and he is the winner of five Pushcart Prizes and has appeared in Best American Poems ‘97 as well as many other anthologies. At UTC he directs the Meacham Writers' Conference and has won teaching awards. He is a winner of the AWP George Garret Award for teaching and writing.

Research and Creative Interests: Working on a book of poems; a book of responses by American poets responded to a Slovene painters' responses to Emily Dickinson; working on translations of Italian poets. Lately I have been investigating parallel responses by writers and artists to wars.

Teaching Interests: Creative Writing (poetry), Romantic Literature, Literature in Translation, Translation Workshop, World Lit and Philosophy

Teaching Approach: My classes are all discussion. I don't lecture except for maybe a 10 minute snippet here and there. I 'teach' to learn, not to proclaim,­­I want to participate in a process of learning and discovering with students. So the classes and office discussions are for me the norm. I don't generally give or rely on tests: I can generally tell who is reading and who is not without a quiz or test. Discussions reveal a lot, and so do papers which I keep short and concise. I never use old notes but reread everything as if for the first time ­ so it is fresh and I'll see new things and keep engaged. I figure if I am engaged it is the best way to engage the students. I like to ask questions but seriously do not have any specific answers in mind­­ they are real questions and I want to hear what students think. It also lets me know how engaged they are in a text­­ or in creative writing, their own work, how invested they are in it.

Why did you become an English professor? I love to read, sure, but I could do that on my own. I love sharing ideas I have, but even more I love listening to ideas students have, learning from them. Part of my basic evaluation of a class is how much I myself have learned; I hope that if I am learning something they are too. In guess I became a professor to learn more, and my students usually have much to teach me in their unique takes on the material. A university is a great place, maybe the best place to have this sort of exchange. Coffee shops are also good.

Why teach? I think the question above may answer some of this. Additionally, I don't see myself as a "teacher" but as Heidegger says, someone who "lets learn." I like to 'teach' creative writing because it allows students to discover new ways to use language which is a way to discover new feelings and ideas, and so a new sense of self. Many of those poetry students, all who applied, went on to win fellowships and assistantships in grad school, and many used their basis in language and poetry to go on and write novels and CNF, and one is writing TV scripts. I like to teach Humanities and literature because it is full of those discoveries itself, and leads to further discoveries among ourselves, both teacher and student. To me that is the value of reading, teaching, learning­­ discover what you didn't know. I want the courses to facilitate that.

What do you expect of students? In literature, I want students to engage texts both intellectually and passionately; in creative writing I am looking not only for some creative spark but a drive, some intensity. I don't trust tests but prefer to engage in discussion and through brief, concise (but loaded) papers. I know some people pride themselves on being 'tough' but I don't think that has much to do with how much you let students learn in their own unique ways. I want to help facilitate students on their various roads to discover new ideas, new selves. That's the ideal anyway. Basically I guess I grade on improvement and engagement.

Outside of being a professor, what do you do for fun and/or relaxation? I like to hike and bike. We often head to the Smoky Mtns or the Cumberland Plateau. I love to travel and see new places, meet new people, but it is also fun to return to a place­­ Tuscany and Slovenia are my favorites­­ and see people who have become friends over the years. I also love to cook, Italian for one, but love to pull things at random from the fridge and see what can be done with them. Surprisingly, it often works. I am also a TV addict­­ I have several shows I watch like ­­Homeland, House of Cards, The Blacklist, Ray Donavan, some crime dramas, but also Big Bang Theory. I listen to a lot of music­­ jazz, opera, and people like Dylan, Bright Eyes, Clash, Civil Wars, the Stones, Decembrists, Bare Naked Ladies, even some classic country - ­­a strange brew of things really.

What's something about you that might surprise your students? I collect ball caps­­ have about 50 or more. I love and appreciate good wine, especially Brunello and Barolo, both Italian. I used to be more of a jock­­ baseball, hockey, track (sprints), football, and played in a softball league here for a couple of years: centerfield. I have worn a tie maybe 10 times in the last 25 years and find them a curious appendage.