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Ben McClendon

Ben McClendon
Ben McClendon
  • Composition Program Director
  • Writing Center Director
  • Assistant Professor of Creative Writing & Rhetoric

Ben McClendon earned his PhD in English from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, specializing in Creative Writing (Poetry) and Rhetoric/Composition. He was raised in Arizona, where he earned an MA in Creative Writing (Poetry) and a BSEd in Secondary English Education, both from Northern Arizona University. Ben’s experience in the classroom began with five years teaching high school English before teaching composition, creative writing, and literature at both Northern Arizona University and the University of Tennessee.

Ben’s poetry can be found in literary journals such as Rattle, Indiana Review, The Chariton Review, Stirring, and Redivider. He is currently finding a home for a book-length poetry manuscript that explores his deep interest in environment and social engagement.

On teaching

When I write poetry (and sometimes prose!) I go to the place deep within where words fail, and I listen. I listen to rivers and trees, to the world we live in, to my own human heart. There is no magic to this practice. Anybody can do this, and it fits in nicely with my practice of Transcendental Meditation, which inspires some of my best ideas.

In teaching, I work to maintain a space that cultivates the capacity to listen and give form to the wordless. Just as anyone can listen, we all have something unique and valuable to say to the world around us. Poetry and other forms of writing empower individuals to add their unique voice to conversations on big ideas, what it means to be human, and how we are interconnected with the environment and each other.

In addition to artistry, the classroom becomes a space in which we can also cultivate reason and inquiry. Our digital-enabled times produce a vast quantity of information. Learning to read deeply into the social practices surrounding acts of language can equip us with the critical and analytical tools we need to make sense of a difficult world and bridge the gap between author and audience to truly communicate.


“Ben is an instructor with a focus and passion in our development as students and as individuals. He structured the class to where I was both challenged and engaged every step of the way. 10/10 would do it again!” —Angel T.

“Ben McClendon demonstrated an uncanny ability to verbally complete abstract thoughts that I would, as if on a moonwalk, only begin and falter to articulate aloud in his Introduction to Poetry class. It was the same skill he happily supported us in sharpening for ourselves: giving a voice to unborn ideas in the many forms of poetry.” —Zachary B.

“My experience in Ben’s class was that it was one of the most influential in my understanding of writing. It really broke down the different components of what makes good writing and really helped me grow in that aspect. It also showed me how to accept and give constructive criticism to improve my skills and confidence as a writer.” —Nate S.

“Ben’s introduction to poetry class had the most rewarding workshop experience I’ve taken part in. It helped me grow as a writer, a poet, an intellectual, a student, and even my view of the world has changed for the better after engaging with the poetry in Ben’s class.” —Kirby S.