Matthew Wimberley, adjunct professor, Department of English and soon to be the Rivers-Coffey Distinguished Professorship of Creative Writing in fall 2021 has been awarded the 2020 Weatherford Award for poetry for his book “All the Great Territories.” Given by Berea College and the Appalachian Studies Association annually, the Weatherford Awards honor books that “best illuminate the challenges, personalities and unique qualities of the Appalachian South.”
Wimberley’s book of poetry, “All the Great Territories,” consists of elegies about his late father written between 2012 when his father passed and 2017.
“Growing up, I spent only a little time here and there with my father, and it was really only the last few years of his life when we began to reconcile. I'd always known my father almost as a person first, and later in life as a dad, perhaps the opposite experience of many when it comes to relationships with parents,” explained Wimberley.
He describes the book as a way to relive the dead and explore both the landscape of his childhood and the myth of his father. He began writing the poems in 2012 when he moved to New York City as a way to feel closer to both the mountains of home and to share with his father a part of his life that he didn’t get to see.
Commenting on the Weatherford Award, Wimberley added, “receiving the Weatherford Award is a tremendous honor. I am both stunned and also invigorated by this recognition and I hope to use whatever additional reach this award brings to further lift up other Appalachian voices against the monolithic narrative, the so-called "outside world" often casts our way.
I believe fully that to write about a place is to be responsible for it and I hope to live up to the legacy of the other writers who have been awarded a Weatherford and the award's namesake W.D. Weatherford Sr.”
Wimberely is also looking forward to the Rivers-Coffey Distinguished Professorship of Creative Writing beginning in fall 2021. Since teaching at Appalachian, he has taught an introductory poetry workshop as well as a senior seminar on poetry, and is excited to continue seeing students develop their voice.
“My teacher Yusef Komunyakaa says that a poem is ‘confrontation and celebration’ and what I hope to continue to teach students is how a poem allows one to view the world around them in those terms, and to not be afraid to surprise one's self--to discover a voice they didn't know they had,” explained Wimbereley.
Wimberley grew up near Appalachian State University on Beech Mountain. Upon moving back to the Boone area in 2014, he was happy to find a vibrant creative writing culture and to befriend several faculty members at Appalachian.
“The opportunity to teach at Appalachian has been wonderful. There is an amazing community of writers here, and I've felt supported by so many people--both in the creative writing program, the larger English department and people associated with Appalachian Journal. So, selfishly I wanted to teach at a place which had a great culture and community of writers--and I've found that to be true from faculty to students. It's humbling to get to work with so many young writers who are alive with language,” said Wimbereley.
Wimbereley received a bachelor's degree from N.C. State University and a master’s degree from New York University. In addition to the Weatherford Award, he received the 2015 William Matthews Prize from the Asheville Poetry Review. He was also named a finalist for the 2015 Narrative Poetry Contest and the 2016 Best New Poets Anthology for the book “All the Great Territories.” He has a second book that will be released this fall titled “Daniel Boone’s Window,” which is part of the Southern Messenger Poets series from the Louisiana State University Press.
About the Department of English
The Department of English at Appalachian State University is committed to outstanding work in the classroom, the support and mentorship of students, and a dynamic engagement with culture, history, language, theory and literature. The department offers master’s degrees in English and rhetoric and composition, as well as undergraduate degrees in literary studies, film studies, creative writing, professional writing and English education. Learn more at https://english.appstate.edu.
By Sophia Woodall
April 6, 2021