English Professor and Poet

photo of Martha SerpasMartha Serpas
Professor of English,Creative Writing Program,University of Houston

M. Div., 1998
Ph. D. in literature and creative writing, University of Houston
M. A. in English with an emphasis in creative writing, New York University
B. A. in English, Louisiana State University

Author of Côte Blanche (New Issues), and The Dirty Side of the Storm (W.W. Norton) 

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It is healthy for a poet's studies to focus on something other than the craft of writing poetry and the history of the art. Writing and teaching poetry for and to other poets can become an incestuous end. I turned to theological study initially, however, because I had questions that poetry kept insisting I consider. In the process I discovered poetic possibilities-narratives, rhythms, images, arguments-and a practical secondary teaching specialty that would be valued in my role as an English Department faculty member.

To study at YDS, I left English Department communities, made up of writers, teachers, and literary scholars, who were all pursuing fairly similar goals. At YDS, I was part of a much more diverse group vocationally: future social workers, publishers, diplomats, priests, ministers, and academics in history, philosophy, religious studies, and literature. Participation in that breadth of knowledge and interest was invaluable: Having career possibilities multiplied, I left more sure of my calling as a teacher, and I became more serious toward my ambitions as a poet.

At present I teach poetry writing and wisdom literature at the University of Houston.  I regularly attend the American Academy of Religion's Annual Meeting, and I serve on the Steering Committee of the Arts, Literature and Religion Section. My continued involvement with Biblical scholars and theologians has enriched my writing and my teaching. Poetry and theology as art forms and as pursuits of truth are allied in a certain grapple with witness-its ethics, challenges, and seductions. These realizations sustain my work, and they are epiphanies I lived at YDS