M.A., University of Colorado Boulder, Classics, 1995
B.A., Western, English, 1992
How did you discover Western?
I discovered Western as an alpine ski racer during my senior year of high school in New Jersey. A flyer arrived in the mail with a photo of Mt. Crested Butte, and it said, “Ski and Study at the Top!” Once I saw that the campus was only 30 miles from the ski area, I was sold—I didn’t apply anywhere else. Interestingly, I came here just to ski, but after injuring myself badly in my first ski race, I turned my attention to my education and discovered that I had a great thirst for knowledge. Western changed everything for me.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
One of the highlights of my career was coming back to Gunnison to teach at Western in 2015, after spending over two decades away teaching at UC Berkeley, UW-Milwaukee and other institutions. While I enjoyed teaching at other universities, teaching at Western is much more meaningful to me since I was once a student here. Western changed my life by opening my eyes to the world of big ideas, of poetry, of literature, of philosophy. To be teaching at Western now and to be in a position to open the eyes of a new generation of Western students to these higher pursuits is a dream come true for me.
What most excites you about your field?
What I am most excited about in my own scholarly and creative work is the ongoing challenge of understanding the radical difference of ancient languages and cultures by translating their surviving, often fragmentary texts. It took me 12 years to translate Homer’s Iliad into a contemporary poetic style, and I am now working on the Odyssey while also putting the finishing touches on the Iliad and seeking a publisher for it. To translate these 2,800-year-old epic poems is to attempt to reach across a vast gulf of time and a profound difference in worldview and ways of being. And yet, the authors of these ancient poems were humans like us, so to translate their poetry well requires both relaying those differences and uncovering what the poems might have to say about persistent aspects of human experience.
What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?
My favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley is its remoteness, its isolation. Sure, we have the internet, our smartphones and everything else that functions to erase our isolation and put us in the stream of modern, technologized life, but there remains a sense of distance here, a solitude that I deeply value as a self-proclaimed hermit. We have so much open space available to us that it is easier to escape average everyday life and to feel as if we were, just possibly, in touch with something larger and more primordial.