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January 11, 2013

DWU professor melds mechanics, personality to create poetry

MITCHELL — Dakota Wesleyan’s newcomer, Barbara Duffey, has taken a profoundly personal approach to her poetry, ironically by using machines.

Duffey, assistant professor of English at DWU, joined the English department this fall and had several poems published over the summer and fall in which she uses mechanical metaphors to portray a personal connection between man and machine.

Her poems, “Archimedes Screw,” “Diesel Engine” and “Ferris Wheel to the Fun House,” were published in the current issue (summer 2012) of “Western Humanities Review” and two poems, “Cento:  ‘Instinct,’ by Lester Del Rey” and “Wheel & Axle,” appear in the current issue (fall 2012) of “Sugar House Review.”

All of these poems are from Duffey’s manuscript in progress, “Simple Machines,” which uses famous machines as metaphors for the human body.

“I use the machine metaphors as a way to highlight my frustrations at my infertility diagnosis, that my body didn’t work as mechanically as I had expected,” Duffey describes. “I focus on machines named after people, such as the Diesel engine, the Archimedes screw, and the Ferris wheel, because those personal names make the machines feel almost like the children of their inventors.”

“‘Simple Machines’ takes up language as another possible ‘simple machine.’ I experiment with composition methods that might be considered ‘mechanical,’ or actually use machines, literally,” she said. “For example, I use the online Oxford English Dictionary’s reverse-search feature to create word lists from which to compose poems. I also make ‘poem machines’ in homage to the language machine in Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ — I build paper structures that can be bound in a book and later detached, assembled, and manipulated to make poems.”

Duffey received her Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City; a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Houston; and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Southern California. Duffey also served as a grant writer for the University of Houston’s College of Education; a writer in residence for the Writers in the Schools, Houston; and a reading instructor at the Institute of Reading Development. She has one chapbook, “The Circus of Forgetting,” in the process of publishing.

DWU is a private, liberal arts university associated with the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church.  For more information about Dakota Wesleyan University, go to www.dwu.edu.


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Last updated: 1/11/13