Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Lewisburg, Union County
Bucknell University professor Ron Mohring is the author of Survivable World, a Washington Prize winner.
Awards: Public Poetry Project of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets, Philip Roth Residence in Creative Writing, Frank O'Hara Prize, Two Rivers Review Prize
Ron Mohring was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has taught Creative Writing at institutions such as Bucknell University - where he also served as Fiction Editor for the literary journal, West Branch for a time - and Lycoming College. He is the author of prizewinning poetry books, including Survivable World, winner of the 2003 Washington Prize and finalist for the 2005 Thom Gunn Award in Poetry from The Publishing Triangle. In 2004, Mohring's poem “Birds of Paradise” received the Oscar Wilde Award from Gival Press. He is the Founding Editor of Sevens Kitchen Press, which showcasing Pennsylvania writers and has published chapbooks of fiction and poetry since 2007.
Ron Mohring was born and raised in Loveland, a small community east of Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1986 he moved to Houston, Texas, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1997; in 1998 he received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Vermont College. As an undergraduate, Mohring was one of ten poets selected to attend the prestigious Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. During his residency at Bucknell in June 1994, Mohring decided that he would some day return to Lewisburg and central Pennsylvania.
In 2000, Mohring was awarded the Philip Roth Residence in Creative Writing and spent the fall semester at Bucknell's Stadler Center for Poetry, where he completed the poems in his third chapbook, Beneficence (2003). In spring of 2001, Mohring was again selected from a national pool of applicants for Bucknell's two-year Stadler Fellowship, and moved permanently to Lewisburg. He then taught Creative Writing and Composition at Bucknell University as an Adjunct and as a visiting Assistant Professor and, beginning in 2002, taught as a Seminar Associate in the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets.
Mohring's poetic concerns include the representation of the diverse voices of persons with HIV and AIDS, the intersection of personal and cultural histories, and the evocation and resonance of nature and the environment. His first full-length collection, Survivable World (2004), both follows and resists the narratives of loss, particularly the loss of his life partner to AIDS in 1995. New poems turn their honest gaze upon the complex and contradictory issues of formative identity: the poems wrestle with sexual identity and the suicide of the poet's father in 1984, but also pay homage to teachers and others who helped to shape and to save the notion of a creative and worthwhile dedication to life.
A frequent source of imagery that lends metaphorical resonance to Mohring's poems is quilting. Mohring, an avid quilter, worked on an intertextual project, the Poets' Quilts, a series that incorporates text and images of various poets' hand prints. The spark for this project originated in the memorial panel that Mohring created for his partner, David Wright, as part of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. One poem that merges the processes of quilting and grieving is “Windows” (in Survivable World ).
In a 2005 interview, Mohring spoke on the writing of Survivable World and on his realization that the poems could refer to his specific experiences yet still resonate widely with a general readership:
“It was on the freeway in Houston one evening (the setting of the poem 'Amateur Grief') that I finally realized: Loss is loss. We all carry it, and at any given moment, on the freeway, in the office, all around us, people are barely holding together: working the copy machine, driving the bus, welding steel, simultaneously here in the physical world and out of their minds with grief. My experiences as a gay man, as a caregiver and surviving partner to someone with AIDS, may be 'different' from someone else's 'world,' but only in the most arbitrarily specific details. How does mourning a child killed by a sniper in Baghdad (or Arlington) really differ from the loss of a beloved partner? Human love, human grief: we all share these, and the difficult subjects must be written about.”
Mohring's subjects extend beyond elegy, sometimes even in the midst of it. His deep connection to the natural world, to animals and plants both wild and domesticated, enters wholly into his poetry. Trees, in particular, populate some of his poems as mysterious figures, keys to identity, and a means of escape and protection. “I tell my students that everything around us, living or not so obviously living, is telling its story,” he has said in an interview for Sunspinner. “And that we have to train ourselves to open up, learn to see and hear, this ongoing narrative.”
His poem “The Company We Keep,” from Survivable World, was selected for publication by the Public Poetry Project of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book in 2005.
While teaching Poetry at Lycoming College, Mohring guided his English classes in the launch of Working Class Poems, a website that posts work about the working class weekly and invites others to join in and/or comment.
Ron Mohring is the Founding Editor and Publisher of Seven Kitchens Press, a micropress that aims to “publish the very best poetry and prose we can find in carefully-edited, hand-trimmed,& hand-tied chapbooks; to work in close collaboration with authors through the production process; and to present a wide aesthetic range from both established and emerging writers.” Seven Kitchens has published fiction and poetry titles since 2007, with a mission to showcase Pennsylvania writers.
His own chapbooks include winner of the Frank O'Hara Prize, Amateur Grief (1998), Two Rivers Review Prize-winner Touch Me Not (2005), and others. When not with pen or quilting needles in hand, he thoroughly enjoys gardening. “To me, it's all intertwined, all part of the same dialogue … everything supports me in my writing, everything feeds that awareness and process.”
Survivable World. Washington, D.C.: The Word Works, 2004.
Amateur Grief. Thorngate Road Press, 1998.
The David Museum. Tuscaloosa: New Michigan Press, 2002.
Beneficence. San Antonio: Pecan Grove Press, 2003.
Touch Me Not. Clinton, NY: Two Rivers Review Press, 2005.