Andrew Grace hits the big time

When Professor of English John Kinsella asked to have a word with him, Andrew Grace '01 never figured he was about to make a leap from undergraduate poet to published author.

"John asked to talk to me in the hall before class," recalls Grace. "He told me, 'I really believe in your work and I want to commission a manuscript.' John talks really quickly, so he outlined the book deal in two minutes without my saying a word. Then I had to sit quietly in class like nothing had happened! It was amazing."

While Kenyon cannot guarantee that all students with an interest in writing poetry will be contracted to write a book before graduation, the sort of one-on-one attention that helped build the power of Grace's work isn't rare. "Especially if you go into English," says Grace. "The department is so big and so good, you're bound to form a personal relationship with at least one great professor."

"It was as a result of my interaction with Andy while he was an independent-study student that I felt he was that very rare poet ready to work towards book publication at a comparatively young age," says Kinsella. "I rate Andy as one of the best poets writing in English of his generation-certainly that I have come across, and I have come across a lot!"

Kinsella originally came to Kenyon to occupy the Richard L. Thomas Chair in Creative Writing. The position brings a distinguished visiting writer to Gambier for a semester each year. Kinsella and the College enjoyed one another's company so much that he now teaches here for a semester annually. A fellow of Churchill College at Cambridge University, Kinsella also edits Stand, a leading British literary journal.

Following his graduation in 2001, Grace spent a year living in nearby Mount Vernon and finishing his manuscript. His volume of poems, A Belonging Field, was released by Salt Publishing in December of 2002. "For two months I was writing almost a poem a day. That's a lot of poems in so short a time, so I don't know that every poem is my very best," laughs Grace. "But I can't thank John Kinsella or Kenyon enough for this opportunity."

Grace soon journeyed to Australia to study Australian literature at Edith Cowan University. He traveled the southwestern coast and outback with other young poets, then worked as John Kinsella's research assistant on a two-volume anthology of Australian poetry.

"Being a great poet is work as well as inspiration," says Kinsella. "Andrew has both. I think this is what Kenyon writing teaches: good ideas need to be matched by sound approach."