Cory Brown in his office

Cory Brown

Retired Professor, Writing
Specialty: Poetry Writing

I grew up in a small town on the plains of western Oklahoma near the banks of the Canadian River, near where my father's parents and grandparents homesteaded early in the last century. Winters are cold and dry there, but relatively short; springs are exciting with their new growth and the frequent tornadic eruptions; summers hot and dry of course, but the evening sunsets are spectacular, as if painted by an overzealous child artist; and autumns, once past the heat of summer, are long and mild--every season lots of sun, breath-taking winds, and of course enormous skies.

I took a B.A. in English and Philosophy from Oklahoma State University in '79 and then worked odd jobs for a while--dishwasher, waiter, liquor store manager, social services secretary in Boulder, Colorado--before returning to school to study more literature, philosophy, and creative writing. But that took a while too, before providing a settled life, a year in this graduate school, another in that. Then came Ithaca and I fell in love with it, particularly with the M.F.A. program at Cornell, happy to be studying with Archie Ammons and Robert Morgan. I taught at Cornell for two more years after graduation and then roamed around the Northeast teaching at Hudson Valley community colleges and then at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute--before coming back to Ithaca to take a position in the Writing Program here and settle down with my family. I'm proud to have been a part of our faculty in the 90s that molded a bona fide Department from our Program, and to now offer a B.A. as interesting and varied in its offerings as ours is.

I've discovered over the years that my ultimate goal in teaching is to instill in my students an intellectual generosity, I would like to think primarily by modeling it, to be less interested in espousing knowledge than in encouraging a particular attitude toward knowledge, expansive and open-armed. I've taught a variety of courses: a freshman seminar on the philosophy and science of sex and love; personal essay writing; poetry writing; a 300-level Poetics course that covers the history of ideas from Thales to Foucault through the lens of creative writing theory; a senior seminar workshop on the practice, history, and theory of traditional poetry forms; and three honors seminars, one on the philosophy of sex and love, another on the pursuit of happiness, and another on Western concepts of the self since the Renaissance.

In addition to publishing poems, I'm publishing essays these days, most recently--2022--a piece in Journal of Narrative Politics, and most recently before that a book-length piece on the pursuit of happiness, in the 2019 proceedings for the conference on Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences & Education, in Hawaii. "The Sick Rose: Some Problems with the Self" came out in the spring '18 issue of Writing on the Edge, an essay that explains the history of the role of the self mostly as it has played out in Western literature since the Renaissance. An autobiographical essay came out in Journal of Narrative Politics in fall '16, and appearing a few weeks earlier was an epilogue I was invited to write, to Narrative Global Politics: Theory, History and the Personal in International Relations. My essay "Thoughts on the Metaphysics of American White Racism" appeared that same year in Journal of Narrative Politics. In 2013, my personal essay "Compliance" was published in South Loop Review and was a top-three finalist in Missouri Review's 2013 essay contest. 

My last three books are from Cayuga Lake Books: A Long Slow Climb, 2021, sixty-three sonnets that take as their inspiration Dante's Divine Comedyelisions, 2019; and What May Be Lost, 2014. My first collection, A Warm Trend, Swallow's Tale Press, won a national manuscript competition in 1989. Among other journals, my poems have appeared in Bomb, december, Cloudbank, Bellevue Literary Review, The Chattahoochee Review, West Branch, Northwest Review, Postmodern CultureThe Fiddlehead, The Antigonish Review, The Pedestal, Rosebud, Nimrod, and Sentence: a Journal of Prose Poetics


  • poetry writing

  • essay writing

  • literary and creative writing theory

  • intellectual history


  • M.F.A. Poetry, Cornell University, 1984

  • B.A. English and Philosophy, Oklahoma State University, 1979

Poetry Books

Interview on A Long Slow Climb

Review of elisions

Some Journal Publications