“I love Charlotte Pence’s electric poems. There’s nothing like emotions under pressure so great they enter the heart like bullets, like water that lies quietly in a pool but leaps from a hose with a force that knocks down doors.”
–David Kirby, author of over 30 books of poetry and collections on soul and rock ‘n’ roll.
Author of one full-length poetry book, two award-winning chapbooks, a composition handbook, and editor of The Poetics of American Song Lyrics, Dr. Charlotte Pence is an assistant professor of English and the chair of the Creative Writing Committee at Eastern Illinois University.
Her writing has received awards and fellowships from the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Redden Fund, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Alvin H. Nielson Memorial Fund, the Discovered Voices Award, New Millennium Writing Award, multiple Pushcart nominations and many other honors. Poetry, hybrid prose, and creative nonfiction have been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Epoch, Harvard Review, Kenyon Review Online, North American Review, Denver Quarterly, Passages North, Rattle, Tar River Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Southern Review, and many other journals.
The commonality among Pence’s writing is a drive to find the relationships among seemingly disparate phenomena and connecting them, putting them all together in one room—or one stanza, since, ultimately, she believes, the art of poetry is the art of combination.
Her latest poetry book merges the personal with the scientific by engaging with current evolutionary theory. Many Small Fires (Black Lawrence Press, January 2015) explores her father’s chronic homelessness through the larger narrative of human evolution. The physiological changes that enabled humans to form cities, communities, and households are a way of triangulating her own personal story. Critic Erica Wright hailed the book as “astonishing” and observed that “… science augments rather than obscures the personal details, showing us what humans—not to mention Australopithecines—have in common.”
Other poetry books include two chapbooks, Weaves a Clear Night (Winner of the Flying Trout Chapbook Award, 2011) and The Branches, the Axe, the Missing (Winner of the Black River Chapbook Award, 2012).
Recently, Pence has been writing more creative non-fiction. Her hybrid essay on baby blues and astronomy measurements originally published by Harvard Review has been anthologized in Borderlands and Crossroads. Another lyrical essay published in Booth magazine is now being collected in their ten-year anniversary issue. And a new essay on fathers is forthcoming from Zone 3.
Pence also wrote a handbook that merges creative writing with composition titled The Writer’s Path: Creative Exercises for Meaningful Essays (Kendall Hunt, 2004). While working on her Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee, she sought a book that treated song lyrics as literature. When she couldn’t do so, she created The Poetics of American Song Lyrics (University Press of Mississippi, 2012). This anthology, the first of its kind, considers song lyrics as appropriate for study in a literature classroom and includes essays by Wyn Cooper, Claudia Emerson, Beth Ann Fennelly, Peter Guralnick, David Kirby, Ben Yagoda, and Kevin Young.
Recent critical work includes an essay on the post-millennial concept collection featuring the poetry of Anne Carson, Natasha Trethewey, and Joseph Harrington. Originally published in Asheville Poetry Review, the essay is now available online at Wesleyan University Press’s site http://thingscomeonreader.site.wesleyan.edu/files/2012/04/AshvilIePoetryReview2015.pdf
As chair of the Creative Writing Committee at EIU, Pence directs the Lions in Winter literary festival and the Hennings Reading Series.