B.A., Western Washington University, English Literature and Education, 2002
Maya Jewell Zeller (she/her/hers) was born in the walk-up apartment above her parents’ gas station on the Oregon Coast and grew up in various communities of the Pacific Northwest. She has taught writing and literature to a range of demographics: high school and college students, fourth graders and senior citizens; at multiple universities, schools, conferences and retreats, in the U.S. and abroad, including Centrum’s Port Townsend Writers Conference and Litfuse Tieton. A two-time writer-in-residence in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, Recipient of a 2016 Promise Award from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and Travel Grant from the American Association of University Professors, Maya has had work translated and presented internationally in Madrid, as part of the Unamuno Author Festival (2019) and Reading Series (2018), and as a visiting writer at University of Oxford’s Meet the Poet at Teddy Hall; she has additionally won awards from Sycamore Review, New South, New Ohio Review, Dogwood, Florida Review and Crab Orchard Review. Maya’s poems and essays have also been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes, Best of the Net, and other awards. Maya is the author of the poetry collections Alchemy for Cells & Other Beasts (a collaboration with visual artist Carrie DeBacker; October 2017, Entre Rios Books), Rust Fish (April 2011, Lost Horse Press) and Yesterday, the Bees (October 2015, Floating Bridge Press). Other manuscripts have been named finalists with such prizes as the National Poetry Series (four time finalist), University of Wisconsin Brittingham/Pollak Prize, Prairie Schooner, Waywiser, New Issues’ Green Rose Prize, and OSU/The Journal, Versa Editions (Amsterdam); and Maya’s poems, essays, stories, and reviews appear in journals such as Bellingham Review, West Branch, Pleiades, New Ohio Review, High Desert Journal, Cincinnati Review, The Rumpus, Willow Springs, The Moth, Booth Journal, Moss, and Rattle, as well as anthologies such as Pie and Whiskey: Poems and Prose on Butter and Booze; Forest Under Story; All We Can Hold; and New Poets of the American West. Her essay “The Privilege Button” appeared in the New York Times-Reviewed anthology, This is the Place (Seal Press, 2017). Maya serves as Poetry Editor for Scablands Books and Associate Professor in the Professional and Creative Writing Program (BA and MA) for Central Washington University, where she also coordinates the Lion Rock Visiting Writers Series. She is currently at work on a memoir, “Raised by Ferns” (out on agented submission); as well as an Advanced Poetry Writing Textbook for Bloomsbury (co-author Kathryn Nuernberger, University of Minnesota), in addition to several poetry manuscripts and a humor novella, “A Few Nondescript Adventures of Some Consequence.” Find Maya on Twitter: @MayaJZeller
How did you discover Western?
One of the Nature Writing faculty introduced me to the program and university.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
I presented my work at University of Oxford as a fellow in St. Edmund Hall’s “Meet the Poet” series (2019). I featured as part of the Unamuno Author Festival in Madrid, Spain (2019), alongside poets Jericho Brown, Paisley Rekdal, Monica Youn, Mark Doty, Mark Wunderlich, & others. Festival Organizers Desperate Literature (bookstore) and Spencer Reese. I have twice been a writing resident in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest (2008 & 2017). I have been honored with a Promise Award from the Sustainable Arts Foundation (2016). My work has four times been a finalist with the National Poetry Series.
What excites you about your field?
Poetry is one of the most capacious and interdisciplinary of genres. So much is possible–from docupoetics and lyric research to long epics and formal innovations. Working with students who are alive to the nuances of various intersecting concerns, both in terms of received and invented traditions, is thrilling.
What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?
I have not yet been to the Valley! I am eager to visit and see the mountain lakes and trails that are often featured in images and descriptions. This, paired with the genuine kindness of everyone to whom I have spoken, paints for me a sort of utopia for outdoor/nature-loving writers. I think I will be excited by the conflagration of people and place– as if they are all of a family of characters. I look forward to hiking with you.