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Poetry in motion: Jed Rasula

Alan Flurry

Jed Rasula, a poet in the Department of English and 2023 winner of the Albert Christ-Janer Award for Creative Research, has produced a dozen scholarly books, three poetry collections and two omnibus anthologies, held an assortment of editorial positions, and earned multiple prestigious awards and honors. Our colleagues in UGA Research Communications profiled Rasula and his career-long advocacy for the arts – especially poetry:


While championing poetry, the Helen S. Lanier Distinguished Professor in the Department of English has also written plenty of his own. He spent the past year archiving his work—43 boxes, five of which are poems—which he’ll sell to a special collections library. The project gave him a panoramic perspective of his career.

There is his intermedia work with calligraphy and visual art—a 1986 collection “Tabula Rasula: Being a Book of Audible Visual Matters”—as well as “quasi-theatrical” work exploring colloquial and idiomatic expressions, ultimately avoiding the prevalent “first person, personal” mode of lyric poetry.

“In a way, that was liberating to see,” he said. “I didn’t feel that I was aspiring to be a poet or to forge a path toward being a poet because I was spending just as much time doing other things. The poetry was kind of wrapped up in it.”

In other ways, Rasula has favored less traditional academic protocol, resisting (or avoiding) a degree in literature or an MFA in creative writing. Instead, he pursued a doctorate in “the history of consciousness” from the University of California-Santa Cruz. He planned to be a Civil War historian and not a writer, but now prefers the latter term over scholar or poet. He doesn’t see any division in his body of work.

“Rasula’s multi-channel version of creative-intellectual life weaves together many facets of living and searching, which are often divided from each other in academic culture,” said Ed Pavlić, a Distinguished Research Professor of English at UGA. “The modernist and the activist, the improvisational and the methodical, the historical and ecological, the anarchic, the surreal and the rational-systematic, as well as what [philosopher and political/civil rights activist] Cornel West used to call ‘the sheer fun in the life of the mind.’”

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Image: photo of Jed Rasula, by UGA photo services.

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