Dr. Justin Wymer has joined the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as an assistant professor of poetry and creative writing, filling a big hole left by his predecessor, Dr. Richard Jackson.
Jackson was a professor of English and creative writing at UTC for 46 years and inspired countless students. He created the Meacham Writers’ Workshop, open to students and the public since 1985. The workshop promotes the literary arts in Chattanooga through free readings, panels, and generative workshops.
Wymer brings a wealth of experience to the creative writing team at UTC.
“I’m hoping to find that, here in Chattanooga, there can be a place where I find a nurturing community while still having a landscape that loves me,” said Wymer.
Click here for more information on this week’s Meacham Writers’ Workshop and other events, including panels, readings and receptions.
Wymer earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Harvard University, a master’s degree in creative writing at the University of Iowa, and a doctorate in English and literary arts at the University of Denver in Colorado. He also spent time teaching English in Palencia, Ourense and Leon, Spain.
He came to Chattanooga from Denver, where he was an adjunct professor of English and literary arts at the University of Denver and of creative writing and poetics at Naropa University—also in Denver. Hailing from Saint Albans, West Virginia, he said the forested, rounded mountains of Chattanooga feel familiar and often influence his writing.
“I wanted to return to a place whose landscape inspired me. A lot of my work deals with the Appalachian landscape and how identity is born because of, and despite, where you grow up.”
He said Chattanooga has quickly begun to feel like home.
“It’s a comfort coming to a place where my body feels like it’s already been before,” said Wymer.
Wymer will teach creative writing, a passion he said is integral to his being.
“I write because I have to write; I can’t not write. I go through periods of silence, but there are always unwritten poems happening during the silence,” he said, “and if poems change, they change because I, as a person, change.”
He said he shares his passion with his students and gives them tools to better navigate their own lives.
“I like to instill that in students because I think that writing can be a psychological transcript of where you are at a certain point in your life. The same way that if you look at a diary that you wrote when you were a kid, it’ll give insight into what you were thinking or how you were thinking at that point,” said Wymer.
He describes writing as essential to self-discovery and personal growth and serving as a place to experiment and have a little fun.
“I love teaching creative writing because I’m allowed to give students permission to make mistakes in a way that a lot of other classrooms either don’t or haven’t yet encouraged, and to allow students to experiment and to rediscover the fun of playing. You’re just playing on the page. You can always refine what you generate when you play, but introducing an element of play and risk is really rewarding for me,” said Wymer.
Sybil Baker, UTC’s Associate Department Head of the English department, is looking forward to introducing Wymer to the public and UTC students at the Meacham Writer’s Workshop.
“Justin will read the first night of the Meacham Writers’ Workshop at our opening reception at the UTC Library September 21st. We’re excited to see what additional roles Justin will take on as he acclimates to UTC,” said Baker.
The workshop is open to the public and free. Register for Wymer’s reading here.