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Catawba College's Writer-in-Residence Publishes New Book

May 12, 2004

Category: English, Faculty


Dr. Janice Fuller, Catawba College’s writer-in-residence, has a new book of poetry recently published and entitled “Sex Education.” It is available locally at the Literary Bookpost.

“Even though the book is called “Sex Education,” a title that was suggested by renowned feminist critic and poet Sandra Gilbert, the book is more about education and gender roles, than it is about sexuality,” Fuller explained. “What binds the poems together is the notion about how women learn to be women in all their various capacities and roles -- how to be a mother, a wife, a lover, and a daughter.”

There are clusters of poems that rotate around certain subjects, such as poems about Fuller’s mother and her death, poems about her twin daughters and the birthing of them, and even poems about being an only child and the special relationship with cousins that that led her to have.

The poems were written over a 10-year-period, some during residencies in Spain, Scotland, and Wales, others at different writers’ colonies or workshops, and some during Fuller’s sabbatical in 2001. A few of the older poems had been included in Fuller’s chapbook.

“During the school year my energies are absorbed by my students, academic responsibilities and committee work,” Fuller said. “To do my best work as a writer, I need physical distance and mental space to let the work which has been brewing through the year come forth. During the year, I keep a notebook and jot down ideas and I start a few poems with my students by doing the exercises they do in creative writing classes and I keep all those beginnings in a notebook. But, for these to actually germinate and come to fruition, I’ve got to have quiet insulation from the regular responsibilities of the world.”

Sandra Gilbert, whom Fuller met while at a workshop in Russia provided a blurb for Fuller’s book cover. It reads in part: “Richly textured and delicately nuanced, Fuller’s book schools us in….love and grief and childhood loneliness as she muses with winning candor, on growing up American and traveling around Europe and on a range of other matters…”

Cover art for “Sex Education” is a reproduction of an oil on canvas by Sigrid Burton entitled “Fifth Song.” Fuller discovered Burton’s paintings during an exhibit of them at the Waterworks Gallery in Salisbury in December 2003. Denny Mecham, departing director at Waterworks, put “me in touch with Sigrid, who graciously gave me permission to use her work on the cover,” Fuller said. Burton was a Fulbright Scholar in India and has pieces of her work in important collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rockefeller Foundation ‘s Collection in New York City, and the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Fla.

“Sex Education” was published by Iris Press of Oak Ridge, Tenn., a small but prestigious press founded 30 years ago by Patricia Wilcox in Binghamton, N.Y. Dr. Bob Cumming has operated the press for the last 10 years in Oak Ridge. It has published books of poetry by Cathy Smith Bowers and Ron Rash, both instructors in the M.F.A. program at Queens University in Charlotte, Keith Flynn, editor of the Asheville Poetry Review, and Susan Donnelly, who recently had a poem published in “The New Yorker” magazine.