Competition: US & Canada
Education: Washington College
Poet, playwright, essayist, and cultural critic, Mark Nowak is driven by his desire to give voice to working people, documenting the hardships wrought by economic downturns both here in the United States and around the world.
He is the author of three poetry collections, all published by Coffee House Press: Revenants (2000), Shut Up Shut Down (2004), and, in collaboration with photographer Ian Teh, Coal Mountain Elementary (2009), a stage version of which has been performed at the Boiler House Theater of Davis & Elkins College in 2007 and 2009 and at the Studio Theater of the University of Pittsburgh. His other plays (dates of first production in parentheses) are Francine Michalek Drives Bread (2003), a story of a Teamsters’ organizer; Capitalization (2004), which deals with President Reagan’s firing of the striking air-traffic controllers; Redundancy (2005), which explores the impact of American plant closures following the passage of NAFTA; and We, The Ministers Responsible for Trade (2006), a meditation on Christopher Columbus and the FTAA.
He is the editor of Then and Now: Theodore Enslin’s Selected Poems, 1943-1993 (National Poetry Foundation, 1999) and, with Diane Glancy, Visit Teepee Town: Native Writings after the Detours (Coffee House Press, 1999), and since 1997 he has been the editor of Xcp: Cross-Cultural Poetics. His poems have been widely anthologized, including in American Poets in the 21st Century: The New Poetics, ed. Claudia Rankine and Lisa Sewell (2007), America Loomed Before Us: Contemporary Poetry from the Other USA, ed. Jon Anderson (2008), and Working Words: A Working Class and Labor Literary Reader, ed. M. L. Liebler (2010), among others.
A graduate of Canisius College (B.A., 1998) and Bowling Green State University (M.F.A., 1990), Mr. Nowak began his teaching career in 1992 as an Assistant Professor at the College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University) in Minneapolis-St. Paul, advancing to Associate Professor before he took up a position in 2009 as Associate Professor of English and Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College in Maryland. In 2011 he moved on to Manhattanville College, in Purchase, New York, where he is now Director of its Graduate Program in Creative Writing.
In addition, in 2006 he taught creative writing to Ford workers through the United Autoworkers of America (UAW) here in the U.S., but also travelled to South Africa to teach members of the National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA). His essay on these Ford factory workshops, “Imaginative Militancy and the Transnational Poetry Dialogue,” was published in Radical History Review. While in South Africa that year, he was also a visiting writer and lecturer at the University of Western Cape, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Rhodes University, and the University of Witwatersrand/WITS Institute of Social and Economic Research.
His work has been supported by the NEH, McKnight Foundation, Jerome Foundation, and Stage Left Theatre’s New Plays Project Development grants. During his Guggenheim Fellowship term, he will be completing another book of poetry, tentatively titled The Workers.