After fall break, Jeff Gundy will visit Goshen’s campus to be this year’s S. A. Yoder lecturer. He’ll give a lecture and reading mysteriously titled “Poetry, The Sleeping King, and Creative Doubt” in Rieth Recital Hall on Tuesday Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m.Gundy is no stranger to GC. In fact, he is a member of the class of ’75. Now a professor of English at Bluffton University, he has taught the English Department’s poetry workshop several times, and was a student under its founding poet and muse, Nick Lindsay.
To give you a better sense of how down to earth this award-winning author of six volumes of poetry and four books of essays can be, here’s a mini-interview with him. In the spirit of creative doubt, five of these items are true and one is not.
Ann Hostetler: What do you do when you’re not writing poetry?
Jeff Gundy: I run or bike. My record running month so far was September, when I logged 472 miles, including the Hancock Horizontal Hundred–100 miles on a beautiful Sunday in early September with a couple of other Bluffton profs. On an especially calm day a couple of weeks ago I did 20 miles in 60 minutes and 12 seconds.
Hostetler: What’s a memorable moment from your time at Goshen College?
Gundy: In the winter of my sophomore year, I went on an informal cross-cultural trip to Hawaii with my friend Lannie Conrad, who had a friend living on the Big Island. I learned how to body surf; run a room-size, conveyor-style dishwasher; and kick-start a ’57 Chevy with an unreliable battery but a manual transmission.
Hostetler: As a global citizen, with a wife from British Columbia, a son in China and credentials as a Fulbright Lecturer in Austria, now bound for Lithuania in the spring, how did your Study Service Term experience serve you?
Gundy: I went to Jamaica on SST in winter 1973, where I taught (using that term loosely) at Norman Manley Jr. Secondary School in Kingston, and started dating my wife Marlyce. The unit leader pulled her aside at one point and warned her not to let me “drag her down in the hole that he’s in.”
Hostetler: I understand that you got your start in publishing with the English Department’s Pinchpenny Press. Tell us about it.
Gundy: Being on the five-year plan gave me time to write enough poems for two Pinchpenny books, “Back Home in Babylon” and “Johnny America Takes on Mother Nature.” The latter nearly sold out its run of 100 copies, thanks mainly to a poem describing a somewhat disgusting fraternity ritual that I read in convocation one day, causing something of a stir. Pinchpenny faculty advisors Ervin Beck and John Fisher persuaded me to leave out one three-letter word in order to get the poem and the book published.
Hostetler: So who’s the sleeping king you reference in the title of your lecture?
Gundy: That’s what they used to call me my first year at Goshen before I finally found an alarm clock that would wake me up in the morning.