Thomas More University selected a former Cincinnati poet laureate to serve as its writer-in-residence for the 2023-2024 school year.
Manuel Iris served as poet laureate for the city from 2018 to 2020. In his new role, the globally published author will visit Thomas More’s Crestview Hills campus each semester for a series of readings and discussions as well as student mentorship.
These events aim to offer students, faculty and staff an opportunity to get to know Iris in an informal setting. They’ll provide a chance for them to hear his work in person and learn a little about his background and worldview, according to the university.
His first event is scheduled for Sept. 25.
“The English and Creative Writing Department is especially excited about Iris visiting because of his passion for working with students as well as his bilingual poetry, which explores language and culture in fascinating and important ways,” said Sarah Gerkensmeyer, an assistant professor at Thomas More specializing in creative writing.
A Mexican poet, Iris received two major literary awards from his home country: the Merida National award of poetry (2009) for his book “Notebook of dreams” and the Rodulfo Figueroa Regional award of poetry for his book “The disguises of fire” (2014). He published his first bilingual anthology of poems, “Traducir el silencio/Translating silence,” in 2018. The collection won two different honors from the International Latino Book Awards.
Iris primarily writes in Spanish and then does his own translation into English.
In 2021, Iris became a member of the prestigious System of Art Creators of Mexico (Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte).
Over the course of his career, Iris has published poetry, essays and translations in magazines and literary journals in Mexico, Spain, Chile, Cuba, Colombia, Portugal, France, the United States and Angola.
Iris earned a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American literature from the Autonomous University of the Yucatan (Mexico) and a master’s in Spanish from the New Mexico State University. He completed a doctorate in Romance Languages at the University of Cincinnati.
He resides in the Queen City with his family.
Kimberly Haverkos, dean of Thomas More’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, invited Iris to take the position after meeting him at a local literary event, Gerkensmeyer said.
Gerkensmeyer noted Iris’ “vibrant commitment” to both his poetry as well as students and the public at large. She believes his bilingual works will be especially appealing to the school’s international students.
Iris voiced excitement about the prospect of sharing his personal stories as a way to encourage students to share their own through their writing.
“To me, being the writer-in-residence for Thomas More University means the opportunity to use poetry to create – and use – bridges of human understanding in a vibrant, loving community of students and teachers,” he told Movers and Makers Magazine.
As an immigrant and a poet who writes primarily in Spanish, Iris views the position as a chance to represent his language and culture, as they become increasingly important in the area, he continued.
“I am humbled and thankful for this honor,” Iris added.
Thomas More created the writer-in-residence program as a way to offer students a unique learning experience that created an awareness of the world beyond its campus, said Julie Daoud, an English and creative writing professor at Thomas More.
Previous writers-in-residence include Pauletta Hansel, Cincinnati’s first poet laureate and Iris’ predecessor, and Richard “Dick” Hague, a short story author and award-winning poet. Both Hansel and Hague drew from their Appalachian roots for inspiration.
Daoud, who teaches several courses on world literature, said Iris plans to focus on the concept of story this semester. He’ll use it, she said, to connect with students and invite them to “contemplate their own lives, particularly their place in the world and their responsibility to others.”
“The program illustrates for students that literature does not happen in a vacuum,” she added. “Instead, it is an artform that illuminates the nuances of who we are and why we are.”