Carson McCullers Center has new director

 Nick Norwood

An award-winning poet and teacher is the new director of Columbus State University's Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians.

CSU English professor Nick Norwood replaced Courtney George, who chose to focus more on her teaching role in the English department, where she is an assistant professor, Pat McHenry, associate dean of the university's College of Letters and Sciences, told the Ledger-Enquirer in an interview Friday.

"It was her decision," McHenry said of George's departure from the center's directorship after four years. "In fact, we tried to talk her out of it. Everybody likes Courtney, and she's got a lot of respect in the community and on campus."

Norwood's work has been published in four collections:

"The Soft Blare," selected by Andrew Hudgins for the River City Publishing Poetry Series, 2003.

"A Palace for the Heart," a finalist for the Mellen Press Poetry Contest, 2004.

"Wrestle," in collaboration with artist and printer Erika Adams, 2007.

"Gravel and Hawk," which won the Hollis Summers Prize in Poetry, 2012.

His poetry has appeared in the following journals: The Paris Review, Southwest Review, Western Humanities Review, Southwestern American Literature, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Shenandoah, Southern Poetry Review, Pleiades, Ekphrasis, Poetry Dails and The New Ohio Review. The PBS NewsHour's Art Beat website and "The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor" on NPR also have featured his poetry.

Other poetry honors Norwood has received include an International Merit Award in Poetry from Atlanta Review, a Tennessee Williams Scholarship and a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship from the Sewanee Writer Writers' Conference, two finalist awards for the Vassar Miller Prize and a finalist award in the Morton Marr Poetry Contest.

On three occasions, Norwood was the only poet representing the United States at the Euroscience Open Forum's "Science Meets Poetry" session.

Norwood's teaching honors at CSU include the Literary Sage Award and the Teacher of Writing Award. He was a finalist for the Educator of the Year Award and the Regent's Teaching Award. He also has served as co-director of the European Council-Ireland program and taught at study abroad programs in England and Germany.

Since its inception 13 years ago, the McCullers Center has been dedicated to preserving the legacy of Carson McCullers, the Columbus native who died at the age of 50 in 1967 after writing the novels "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter," "Reflections of a Golden Eye," "The Member of the Wedding," "The Ballad of the Sad Café" and "The Clock Without Hands." In addition to operating as a museum in McCullers' childhood home, the center nurtures American writers and musicians through fellowships and conducts educational and cultural programs. The center also operates the home in which McCullers died in Nyack, N.Y., which helps CSU house the world's most extensive research collection on the author.

Although he is the new director, Norwood isn't new to the center. He was on the center's selection committee for the Marguerite and Lamar Smith Writing Fellowship, helped renew CSU's membership in the Georgia Poetry Circuit and directed the Southern Literary Festival, which the center cosponsored.

"I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to serve as director of the McCullers Center," Norwood said in a news release. "The house in Nyack, New York, has the potential to earn Columbus State a kind of nationwide recognition it's never had before. I envision the McCullers Center's becoming the university's major hub of creative endeavor."

McHenry, who chaired the selection committee, said Norwood was the clear choice.

"He's had heavy involvement in the center," McHenry said. "He's been very effective in creating connections to other writers, and he brought a number of big-name people to the center for events. He is a very well respected poet. He has award-winning collections. He's connected nationally and internationally, so that puts him in good position to represent the center and Carson McCullers' legacy to an audience beyond Columbus."

George said Friday in an email to the L-E, "This position afforded me so many amazing opportunities, and I have met so many inspiring and dedicated people connected to the McCullers efforts. While integrating the new artifacts from Carson's Nyack home into the home here in Columbus was certainly a highlight, I have to say that leading the CSU New York Arts program (which takes CSU students to study in New York City in the summer) was the most meaningful experience for me. To watch students transform when they live and study in a new place is truly a life-changing experience for a teacher."

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow him on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.