NATCHITOCHES, La. (NSU) - Julie Kane is turning a page in her career as the professor of English at Northwestern State University. She is retiring Friday after 17 years on the faculty.
Kane has brought national attention to Northwestern State through her poetry. She has written five books of poetry, “Paper Bullets," “Jazz Funeral,” “Rhythm and Booze,” “Body and Soul” and “The Bartender Poems.”
Kane won the Donald Justice Poetry Prize for “Jazz Funeral.” A former Fulbright Scholar, Kane was a winner of the National Poetry Series Open Competition for “Rhythm & Booze.” She was a finalist for one of the major prizes in American poetry, The Poets’ Prize for the Best Collection of American Poetry, and a judge for the 2005 National Book Award in Poetry. Northwestern State honored her with the 2004 Mildred Hart Bailey Research Award.
She served as Louisiana’s poet laureate from 2011-13. Her work has been featured twice on “The Writer’s Almanac” on NPR. Kane frequently gives poetry readings around the country.
“I’m lucky to be a poet and not a fiction writer because I can work on a poem for a few hours whenever I have the time and at least get a first draft done,” said Kane. “I look forward to being able to focus on my writing.”
Kane is working on a series of poems relating to Irish-Americans. Kane, who is of Irish heritage, is going back to an area she first started working on in college.
“I’m going to look at women in the culture, how they were shaped in the culture and the choices they made,” she said.
Kane came to NSU in 1999 and only planned to stay for a year. She quickly began to love the university and city of Natchitoches.
“I came here on a one-year appointment as a visiting assistant professor. I had just received my Ph.D. and the department head Ray Wallace was looking to expand the department’s creative writing offerings,” said Kane. “I was going to spend the year getting teaching experience and looking for a permanent job. I really liked it here and it seemed like a good fit for me. My colleagues seemed to like me. A position came open and I was able to get a permanent job. I have enjoyed it here because it is a wonderful atmosphere. The students are friendly and my colleagues are helpful and enjoyable to be around.”
Kane quickly found she could be an effective teacher of creative writing.
“In my second semester, I taught my first creative writing class and knew I had found my niche,” said Kane. “Creative writing is something that gave my students confidence in themselves.”
In her class, Kane uses the Iowa Workshop Method with great success.
"The class as a whole reads each other’s work and gives feedback,” said Kane. “I have found my students to be very sensitive about the feelings of their classmates and open minded. Sometimes, they can be intimidated to get feedback from me, but when they get suggestions for improvement from fellow students, it presents an opportunity for growth.”
Kane said she has found other activities at the university outside of the classroom to be rewarding. For he past six years, she advised the Brainy Acts Poetry Society, a group of Northwestern State students with an interest in writing and presenting poetry.
“Working with the Brainy Acts Poetry Society has been one of my favorite things to do,” said Kane. “There are very few English majors in the group and they use poetry as a way of self expression and a means of bringing about social change because of injustices in society. They are very popular in campus and around the state. They are not interested in poetry for the sake of being in the Norton Anthology. It is a way to express themselves and be inspired.”
She has been faculty advisor for Argus, the campus literary magazine for 13 years. In that period, Argus has been ranked among the top campus literary magazines in the country.
“I have looked back over the past issues and am reminded how talented our students are,” said Kane. “The Argus staff always did a professional job of designing and editing. Each issue had its own identity and let people know what NSU students are thinking and feeling.”