Filling out social security, Medicare and pension paperwork has accompanied grading student work, teaching classes and writing poetry for Paul Lake, who will be retiring this year after 35 years of teaching at Arkansas Tech University.
Lake has been trying to balance teaching, writing, poetry, editing, filling out paperwork for retirement, getting ready to move and supporting his family.
Retirement means he gets to stop doing one of these.
“I have pages and pages of stuff on my resume and I feel I have done enough teaching so while I am still alive and young and capable of doing this I want to write more stuff,” Lake said.
Lake said he started writing when he was in the fifth grade because he was trying to figure out what he wanted to be when he grew up.
“I was a kid who wouldn’t do homework, ever,” Lake said. “All I ever wanted to do was read and write.”
When he reached the high school level of his life he won an award for his writing and he remembers thinking “hey I’m pretty good at this.” That is when Lake decided to go to college for writing.
After graduating from Edgewood High School, he spent two years at Harford Community College and then transferred to Towson University in 1975 where he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in English education.
He then applied to Stanford University for graduate school and received the Wallace Stegner Fellowship, a fellowship that paid for tuition, health insurance and gave the recipient a living stipend or money to live off of like an allowance.
He graduated from Stanford in 1979, having earned a master’s degree in English and creative writing.
Lake spent two years as an adjunct English instructor at the University of Santa Clara in California. In 1981 he applied to and was hired as an English professor at Tech.
“After 24, 25 rejections I got the job here because being a poet it’s hard to get a job, and I have loved it,” Lake said.
Since 1981 Lake has taught numerous classes both for undergraduate and graduate level courses.
But teaching is not all Lake has done in the last 35 years.
Lake wrote and published poems and essays throughout his academic and professional career.
He has published three books of poetry: “Another Kind of Travel” (1988), “Walking Backward” (1999) and “The Republic of Virtue” (2013), as well as two poetry chapter books. Lake also published two novels: “Among the Immortals” (1994), and “Cry Wolf: A Political Fable” (2008).
“Paul is a very positive person, very upbeat, a dedicated poet. He has worked as hard at his craft as any writer possible could,” said Stanley Lombardo, professor of English.
Retirement from Tech means that Lake can write more and spend more time with his family.
Lake won’t talk about how many books or what type of poetry he plans to write during his retirement, but he said he does want to finish writing a sci-fi trilogy he started years ago but has not had the time to pick back up.
Thirty-five years of teaching has made him happy, but now he must do what his heart has been craving more of. Through retirement he plans to achieve this.
“Despite his stature as an important contemporary American poet, Professor Lake remained dedicated to Tech students,” said Carl Brucker, head of the Department of English and World Languages.
“I hope Paul and his family will enjoy retirement.”