I am a 7th generation Appalachian by way of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. All throughout my childhood and adolescence, I spent whole summers living with my grandparents in the coal mining ghost town of Hemlock, Ohio, located in the foothills of Northern Appalachia. My grandfather worked the mines for 13 years until an explosion seriously injured him and forced him and my grandmother to relocate to Columbus to find work. After 25 years, they retired and moved back to Hemlock and the house they had built on weekends. Each night at the dinner table was a lesson in storytelling, and I would absorb every word about working the mines, about farming, and about surviving no matter what life throws at you. The time I spent living with them was the best education I ever received.
My career as a writer began when, as a boy of six, I wrote a story for my father after he had cut off part of his big toe with the lawn mower. I didn't write another story until my sophomore year at Ohio State when I enrolled in a short story writing course just to be near a girl I liked. When I couldn’t woo the girl with my stories, I followed another girl into a poetry writing class to try my hand at writing love poems. The result, sadly, was another failed attempt at getting the girl and a collection of poorly written Journey songs. I did learn, however, that I truly enjoyed the challenge of writing.
After graduating from Ohio State, I decided that I needed to read much more literature before I could actually write it myself. In order to pay the bills, I put my English degree to good use by working as a Laboratory Manager for the Department of Zoology at Ohio State. It didn’t take me long to streamline the routine of feeding and caring for my menagerie of leeches, hissing cockroaches, snakes, tortoises, starfish, sponges, and various microbial life forms. After my first month at work, I was able to perform my duties in less than two hours, which left me six hours every day to read and write. In the five years that I held the lab job, I wrote nearly 2,000 pages of poetry and stories, many of which relied heavily on the landscape and rich literary tradition of Ohio.
When Robert Bly told me that the ghost of James Wright was speaking "too loudly" in my poems, I felt that I needed to make a clean break from Ohio. Consequently, I spent much of my 30s looking back at Ohio in my rearview mirror, traveling to see if the world had more to offer me than my home state. During those years, I called England, Alaska, Iowa, and Oklahoma home for varying lengths of time. After 10 years of searching, I finally realized that the home I was looking for was the home I had left behind. So in 2001 I got a job teaching English at Columbus State in Columbus, Ohio, and packed up one last time to head back home.
Since my forlorn days at Ohio State, my writing and photography have appeared in numerous print and electronic journals, including 2 River View, The American Journal of Poetry, Barren, Barrow Street, Beloit Fiction Journal, Gettysburg Review, The Journal, ONE ART, Poet Lore, The Sun, and Virginia Quarterly Review. Selections from both my poetry and prose have been nominated for Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Best Microfiction prizes. I've also been fortunate enough to receive grants from the Ohio Arts Council in both poetry and play writing. I am the author of three full-length collections of poetry, The Other Side of Who I Am (Kelsay Books 2023), Clean Coal Burn (Kelsay Books, 2021), and Tragedy, Ecstasy, Doom, and so on (Kelsay Books, 2020) , as well as a full-length collection of stories, Some Birds Nest in Broken Branches (Alien Buddha Press, 2022). And I'm the author of eight poetry chapbooks: Little Hiroshimas (Finishing Line Press); The Misanthrope in Moonlight (Bottlecap Press); One Promise of Green (tiny wren publishing); Distress Signals (tiny wren publishing); Afraid of Heaven (Mudlark); Everyday Elegies (Pudding House); Whisper Gallery (Mudlark); and The Weight of Smoke (Bottom Dog Press).
My days now are no longer filled with the desire to find new landscapes; rather they are filled with showing my son the landscapes that I grew up with, the landscapes that I never really left behind but carried with me deep in my blood like the DNA of an ancient and mysterious ancestor whose life I still have much to learn about.