If he were a character in a novel, that Dickensian top hat and volume of Chaucer tucked under his arm would clearly indicate to readers that Clark Iverson is a professor of English. But it’s his ability to show students what it takes to craft a meaningful verse or sentence and the wider implications of such labors that has endeared him to them.
“Do not be afraid to take chances and make mistakes,” extols Iverson, a writer of poetry and prose whose work has appeared in such anthologies as Abandoned Automobile. “It may not feel comfortable, but it is enormously useful for learning and development, not just as a writer but in any discipline.”
Iverson grew up in working-class neighborhoods on Detroit’s east side and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wayne State University before realizing, “I didn’t want to make psychology my life’s work.” Then, a class in urban folklore encouraged him to give literature “another try.” He earned a master’s degree in English at Wayne State, with “friends and poetry” leading him to Macomb 23 years ago.
“I believe in undergraduate education,” says Iverson. “I most enjoy seeing the veil lift from my students’ faces when they grasp something new.”
A member of the Liberal Arts Network for Development’s planning committee and a co-founder of Macomb’s annual Day of Poetry, Iverson served as faculty advisor to an on-campus writers’ club a few years back. But as students’ interests changed, membership waned.
“If a core group of motivated students wanted to establish one again,” pledges Iverson, “I’d help them in a heartbeat.”
To refresh after an academic year, Iverson enjoys “arguing, cuddling cats, reading, eating sweets and surrealism.” And his trusty top hat? “I wear it for professional work, never for basketball or gardening.”
This summer, however, has not been quite as refreshing as those past, with the specter of COVID-19 casting uncertainty on most everything. For his part, Iverson has been practicing social distancing at home with “a completely wonderful woman named Karen,” with whom he has been married for 39 years and shares two children and a granddaughter. And, although he would prefer to interact with students in a classroom this fall, he has taught online since March and will continue to do so until it’s safe to return to campus.
“Public health has to take priority over pedagogical preference,” he notes. “I’m just trying to think carefully about teaching in a time of pandemic and upheaval.”
During his career at Macomb, Iverson has taught first-year composition, creative and advanced creative writing, poetry, fiction, American literature and Shakespeare. But more telling is the number of former students with whom he still corresponds.
“I could fill a year’s worth of classes,” says Iverson, “with students who have kept in touch.”