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Professor and Poet

Dr. Tom Hunley has been with WKU for twelve years. He obtained his doctorate in English with a Creative Dissertation at Florida State University, and minored in Composition Studies and Creative Writing Pedagogy. Dr. Hunley currently has two books under contract titled Plunk—a collection of poetry—and Creative Writing Pedagogies, that he co-edited with Alexandria Peary of Salem University.


Jacky Killian: What does it mean to  be an English professor to you?

Dr. Tom Hunley: It means I have the best job in the world.  I’m constantly re-invigorated when I see people fall in love with reading and writing, and it’s great to be able to view and sometimes facilitate that.

Jacky: Why do you write poetry?

Dr. Hunley: Like any discipline, academic or otherwise, poetry provides a way to make sense of the world.  For someone with an artistic temperament and a love of language, it is a natural way to find what Robert Frost called “a momentary stay against confusion.”

Jacky: What made you and the other faculty here decide to create an MFA for English here at WKU?

Dr. Hunley: It was Provost Elmslie’s idea.  I thought it was a good one.

Jacky: What sort of challenges did you encounter while working on the MFA program?

Dr. Hunley: It was a challenge to design the kind of program that I would have liked to attend.  It was a challenge to explain the vision to other faculty members, to administrators, and to outsiders who are involved in the review process.  It was a challenge to secure the kind of funding needed to make the program competitive.

Jacky: What advice do you have for English majors? 

Dr. Hunley: I don’t give or take advice.  I’m a punk rocker.

A rad dude with a bad 'tude.

A rad dude with a bad ‘tude.

I want to think Dr. Hunley for his time and his patience. He shared with me a poem he wants to include in a book of poetry he is currently working.

“Dr. Hunley’s Poem”

Here lies Tom C. Hunley, Ph.D.,

who, as a professor of literature, / refused to acknowledge popular books

about vampires, dragons, and especially zombies / which he used to rail against

in between bitter sips of the coffee / that gave him his zip and pep

he said poetry sings the song / of the human heart

and literary fiction tells its story / What does Dr. Hunley know

about the human heart, / we wondered, as he boarded up

his doors and windows / to shut us out

he had sown inside us / a hunger and thirst

for the amazing human heart, / and we have to say

his tasted delicious,

Edit: Dr. Hunley informed me of an error I made when I edited the poem for concision, which I corrected. (Correction made: replaced final period with a comma.)

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