Amy Newman

Acclaimed poet Amy Newman is ‘still learning’

Amy Newman

What’s it like to learn from one of the top poets in the United States? In a word, "inspiring," according to students who have taken the poetry, literature and graphic novel courses taught by Northern Illinois University English Professor Amy Newman.

"She’s just phenomenal," says NIU alumna Jerene-Elise Nall, who studied poetry with Newman. "She’s such an inspiration as a person, as a professor, as a professional."

It’s not a stretch to say Newman is considered among the best contemporary American poets. Her 2016 book, "On This Day in Poetry History," was called "dazzling" by no less than the New York Times.

But she’s also a prime example of why the university values professors who both teach and do. They not only impart wisdom but also work on the cutting-edge of their disciplines.

"She’s cool and funny—and as brilliant as she is caring," says alumna Kirsten Grimes. "She goes above and beyond always for her students."

Under Newman’s tutelage, NIU students have flourished—publishing books, winning national awards, placing their work in scholarly journals and gaining entry into prestigious graduate programs and writers’ workshops. They go on to careers in teaching, business, nonprofits, media, music and the arts, with Newman often continuing to serve as a mentor and consultant.

The professor cares so deeply about her students because she identifies with them, a fact made evident in a bracelet she often wears. It is inscribed in Italian, ancora imparo, which translates to "I am still learning."

"I wear this bracelet to every class I teach," Newman says, "as a reminder that I am still learning daily from my students.

"I learn by listening to them as they think and as they begin to articulate ideas. Their insights are often refreshing and enlightening. And though it's hard to put into words, I've learned fresh insights, how art impacts their lives, new ways of engaging with literature and striking ways of thinking about the world."

Newman has a new book coming out in 2023, titled "The Incomplete Encyclopedia of Happiness and Unhappiness." She also is translating and publishing the poetry and letters of the Italian poet Antonia Pozzi.

"There has been an overdue critical reappraisal of Pozzi in her home country, yet she remains largely unknown to English language readers," Newman says. "It continues to be a great joy for me to explore and share her work, and my goal is to amplify this important voice, which was marginalized by the prevailing forces of her time."

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