Kenyon student and young alumnus find publishing success

Cinderella goes to the ball

Still two years from graduation, Jesse Iott '04 has already joined Kenyon's long list of published writers. His poem "My Last Hangover" will be appear in an upcoming issue of the prestigious Atlantic Monthly magazine.

Asked for a thumbnail autobiography, Iott sums it up as follows: "Grew up in a small farm town in northern Michigan, went to art school when I was sixteen so I could study poetry, worked on short fiction instead of chasing girls. It's a Cinderella story, really."

The story's plot thickened when Iott joined a poetry workshop with award-winning poet Alan Shapiro, who was visiting Kenyon as the Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing in the spring of 2002. "The kid is just terrific," says Shapiro. "He turned in a poem to my class that I thought was amazing, one of the best pieces any student has ever written in a class of mine, at any level, graduate or undergraduate."

Shapiro thought enough of the poem to pass it along to an editor at the Atlantic. The magazine eventually accepted one of Iott's poems, but not the one Shapiro had suggested. "It's the poem itself, and not any lobbying for it that I may have done, that made the editor see Jesse's brilliance. The proof of this is that I have sent poems routinely to the Atlantic over the years and they are routinely rejected," laughs Shapiro.

Has the experience changed Iott's life? "Not especially," he says. He had planned to devote himself to writing and continues to do so. "There's a Jim Harrison quote that I tack on to the end of all my e-mails," adds Iott. "It goes, 'I would rather give full vent to all human loves and disappointments, and take a chance on being corny, than die a smartass.' I think that says it."