Steven Reese: Teaching and Writing Poetry

Steven Reese teaches English literature at YSU. Photo courtesy of YSU

By Zach Mosca

While college professors are primarily seen as mentors and role models for students, there is often more to them than meets the eye. A shining example of this is Youngstown State University English professor Steven Reese.

Reese is a poet and has written poems since junior high school when he wrote a book for a project. Ever since then, he’s taken an interest in poetry. Reese said he enjoys writing poems because of how unique the writing style is and how creative he can get with it.

“I like the sound of the language when it’s rhythmically arranged and when it rhymes sometimes,” Reese said. “I like how much could get said in such a small space.”

Reese’s work spans multiple decades and has seen many different moods and styles covering many different themes.

“My first two books of poems had a number of pieces about family. I have a couple of sons, so there’s poems about them, but then it ranges to a lot of different concerns. Some of them quasi-political, maybe, some are about language, some are about poetry itself, so it varies,” Reese said. 

Reese has cited many different poets as influences and inspiration to him, including Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens.

When it comes to style, Reese said his poetry has matured a lot over the years with him taking more risks with structure and word choice.

“I think my first poems were sort of restrained a little bit in terms of word choices, tone and things like that. I think it’s grown in being a little more adventurous about my style and form and also embracing larger subject matter,” Reese said.

Reese attended Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, majoring in English, and earned his doctorate at the University of Delaware. From there, he was hired as a professor of English literature.

“There aren’t jobs-a-plenty [in Delaware] in this line of work. So really, I had two choices given to me and [YSU] was by far the more preferable,” Reese said.

Reese also chose to come to YSU because his father grew up in Youngstown, so the city has sentimental value to him. 

Reese and his work left an impact on YSU students and faculty alike. English professor and author Christopher Barzak had Reese as a professor while a student at YSU, and now experiences a new dynamic with him as a fellow faculty member.

“Steve is laid-back and charming, and he always makes me laugh. Always a problem solver and calm presence. It’s been a pleasure to be his student years ago and to work with him this last decade-and-a-half,” Barzak said.

Reese said he is grateful for all the opportunities YSU provides him as both a poet and a professor. 

“One of the real joys of working at YSU is having the ability to have [poetry] as my work in addition to teaching literature which I love to do as well,” Reese said.  

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