Department of English, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as Assistant and Associate Professor of English, and Assistant Dean of Arts & Sciences, 1966-75; Professor of English, Clemson University, 1975-98; Head, Department of English. 1975-80; Assistant & Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts, 1986-95; Interim Administrator, Speech & Communications Program, 1993- 1995; Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, College of Architecture, Arts & Humanities, 1995-98; Interim Dean, College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities, 1999-2000.
Featured Alumni (LSU): Dr. Ronald Moran
When Dr. Ronald Moran entered college to pursue his undergraduate degree in 1954, he had no idea what he was going to do with the rest of his life. His parents thought he would become a lawyer. During his senior year at Colby College, he found out he had been accepted to a number of law schools. One night in the spring of 1958, it occurred to Moran that law school was not the direction he wanted to go with his life.
At Colby College, Moran was an American Literature major and thought about pursuing a graduate degree in English. He recalls, “I told my faculty advisor I wanted to go as far south as I could, so I could escape the cold of Maine I had experienced for the previous four years.” His advisor said, “If you want to stay in American Literature, there are only two schools to consider: LSU and Tulane.”
Moran chose LSU. He went on to receive his master’s degree in English Literature in 1962, followed by his Ph.D. in English (emphasis in American Literature) in 1966. Moran’s career also began at LSU, he became an English instructor while pursuing his Ph.D. Moran then joined the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty for nine years, one of which (1969-70) he was a Fulbright Lecturer in American Literature at the University of Würzburg in West Germany. In 1975 Moran was named as head of the Department of English at Clemson University where he taught American Literature and the creative writing of poetry, along with serving in a number of administrative roles, such as associate dean and interim dean.
Since retiring from Clemson in 2000, Moran continues to actively write scholarship and poetry, including two books of literary criticism, one co-authored and published by the LSU Press, and 12 books/chapbooks of poetry. His most recent poetry collection is The Tree in the Mind (Clemson University Press, 2014). In 2011 he wrote a book entitled The Jane Poems (Clemson University Press, 2011), which he dedicated to his late wife:
“This book is dedicated to the memory of Jane Moran, my wife for 50 years. Jane was born in Hartford, Connecticut on June 13, 1938, and died in Simpsonville, South Carolina on February 23, 2009. In addition to saving my life by marrying me, she was the love of my life, the best reader of my poetry, my best friend, and the most loved and loving person I have ever known.”
Moran’s education at LSU has had a profound impact on his career. “My writing poetry began at LSU. Although I never took a course in creative writing at either the undergraduate or graduate level, it was at LSU that I developed my love for poetry and whatever fundamental understandings I have of the genre,” said Moran. “The best professors in my life were on the LSU English faculty. With a faculty very conversant with all aspects of poetry, with the LSU Press at close hand (the best university press in America), with the prestigious Southern Review edited in the Department of English, and with wonderful colleagues as graduate students, I profited immensely from my years at LSU. I will always be deeply indebted to LSU,” Moran added.
When asked to recall his most fond memory from LSU, Dr. Ronald Moran responds, “The people, O the people, in so many ways!!”
Links to Poems in Evening Street Review:
Links to reviews of Moran’s work:
“Well Said” by Gilbert Allen: A review of Saying These Things by Ronald Moran.
“Waiting” by Ronald Moran, reviewed by Scott Owens
Books & Chapbooks:
Poems in Magazines: Approximately 500 in a number of magazines, including Asheville Poetry Review, Carolina Quarterly, Commonweal, Connecticut Poetry Review, Flyway, Kentucky Poetry Review, Louisiana Review, Main Street Rag, Maryland Poetry Review, Negative Capability, Northeast, North American Review, Northwest Review, Orange Room Review, South Carolina Review, Southern Poetry Review, Southern Review, Tar River Poetry, Thomas Wolfe Review, Wallace Stevens Journal, Webster Review, Wild Goose Poetry Review, and Yankee.
Other Publications: Numerous articles on modern and contemporary poetry, translations, book reviews, poems reprinted in anthologies, etc.
Selected Recognitions: Fulbright Lecturer in American Literature at the University of Würzburg, West Germany, 1969-70. Poems selected for inclusion in 1984 and 1 985 editions of Anthology of Magazine Verse & Yearbook of American Poetry. Selected by South Carolina Arts Commission to be on the 1991 and 1992 South Carolina Readers Circuit. Featured poet in Pudding Magazine 23 (1994). Winner, 1994 National Looking Glass Poetry Chapbook Competition. Winner of Eben Flood Poetry Award. Award for Faculty Excellence (poetry), Clemson University, 1996. Distinguished Emeriti Award (poetry), Clemson University, 2009. Selected as Calhoun Reader 2011 in Poetry (Featured Reader), at the Clemson Literary Festival, 2011. Poem nominated for Pushcart Prize, 2011. Writings, etc., archived in Special Collections, James B. Duke Library, Furman University. Third Place in The Avalon Literary Review Contest, Winter 2015. Honorable Mention in The Avalon Literary Review Contest, Summer 2015.
THE JANE POEMS Review in The South Carolina Review Volume 44, Number 1, Fall 2011 by Susan Laughter Meyers
Moran, Ronald. The Jane Poems. Clemson, South Carolina: Clemson University Digital Press, 2011. Pp. 59. $15 paperback.
It’s hard these days to read any book of American poetry that is an elegy for a spouse who has died—particularly a wife, particularly a death from a painful chronic illness—and not compare it to Donald Hall’s Without, written about his wife, the poet Jane Kenyon. Thus, when I received a copy of Ronald Moran’s latest book, The Jane Poems, I felt some reluctance to open it. Even the first names of the two poets’ wives are the same. There were initial moments of doubt, when “What if I don’t like this book” crossed my mind. How does one review such poems, a book based on the love of the author’s life—his late wife of fifty years, no less—if the reviewer’s opinion of it isn’t favorable?
Reading the first pages of The Jane Poems put these concerns to rest. Immediately I knew, yes, this is a fine book of poetry. Yes, it holds up well in comparison to the Hall book. In fact, in my opinion, Moran’s book is off to a better start than Hall’s, whose first poem is written in third person, perhaps for the sake of distance. For whatever reason Hall chose that point of view, its odd way of distancing the reader makes for an awkward beginning, at least it did for my experience. In contrast, Moran begins in his warm, intimate voice that readers of his earlier books know well. The first poem is a narrative from the poet’s younger days, an amusing incident with Jane’s brother before the poet and Jane were married. It has a lightness about it that sets the reader’s mind at ease from the start: this book won’t be without levity, this book won’t lead the reader down a dark tunnel of despair with not-enough air to breathe, this book won’t be dreary and grim.
Basically the book’s structure is chronological, which could have been disappointing had the voice behind the poems not been so unable to face what was ahead with Jane’s illness and impending death. Thus, the chronological movement of the poems allows the reader to feel the tension of time running out for Jane. The poet is up against a wall; there’s nothing he can do to save his beloved. In Part One we know the poet as a young man who would bare his chest, taking off his tee shirt—“an unlikely act / of courtship”—while mowing the same patch of lawn over and over on the off-chance that the lovely Jane would happen by and see him. This is a man who will go to outrageous lengths for the woman who has won his heart. He’s the Blue-footed Booby of the suburbs, doing his mating dance—or in this case his ritual mowing. By the end of Part One the two are married, and their close relationship is evident in poem after poem. There are several dream poems, and the poet says, “No surprise that we’re getting into each other’s dreams,” each coming and going with a flashlight, crossing the other’s path at night. Jane is the steady rock of the two. Once, when the poet explains a dream he had to her, she responds in a humorous, matter-of-fact way: “It’s the oysters.” The two are so close that their waking and sleeping become intertwined—Jane talking to the poet in her sleep, once asking, “What’s bothering you?” and once when asked what she wanted, answering, “Love me.”
Partly because she is ill and thus often resting or sleeping, and partly because she is placed high on that proverbial pedestal, Jane is not often visible in the poems. Yet that’s not necessarily a shortcoming, because it’s the poet’s love for Jane and the relationship itself that shines. Stationing Jane somewhat in the background is what keeps the book from being a grim account of her death. When she does appear, she’s no shrinking violet but instead sets the speaker straight when he needs it, always with kindness. One of the most poignant poems, in Part Two, is about an ordinary experience in the car when Jane keeps dropping a box of Tic Tacs. The possibility of loss looms heavy at the poem’s end. Here’s the poem in its entirety:
Three times this week
you’ve dropped the Tic Tacs,
wedging them between
your seat and its track,
and each time I tell you
to be more careful,
to put them in a side pocket,
when you remind me
there isn’t one in my midget car,
asking me each time,
why do I get so upset
over Tic Tacs
while you adjust your scarf
to the wind, and snap on
the dark glasses we bought
at the ophthalmologist’s,
and I’m thinking, as I shift
into reverse, why do I get
so upset over Tic Tacs,
and what am I supposed
to do if I want a Tic Tac,
and what will I do
if your heart closes up
like a sundrop after dark?
What a mundane circumstance, and how it leads to a heartbreaking moment of awareness. Moran is good at homing in on what seem to him to be his frailties, his own inept ways of coping—and he recounts them with a wryness that makes him completely believable and likable. In much of Part Two he comes and goes—to the doctor’s office, the drugstore, the hospital—taking care of Jane and trying to prepare for her inevitable death. Still he’s able to keep his sense of humor and to stay rooted in the physical world. He reads poetry and notices his surroundings with a poet’s keen eye. He sees, for example, a cleaning woman dusting TVs “with a long feather duster like a wand,” and it occurs to him, “It’s magic we need.”
But there is no magic here, and in Part Three comes Jane’s death, when the author must live his life without her. In what must have been one of the hardest poems of all to write, Moran describes the circumstances of her death in a Hospice House: “This is how it happened, so I am writing / lines / of demarcation for a day without tropes,” he bravely begins. Unable to absolve himself of the guilt of not being there at the moment of her death, the poet looks for a sign from Jane that she has forgiven him for a lot of things, but mainly for being absent at the end and not being able to save her. These last poems are some of the strongest: “In Place of a Prayer,” “Killing Time,” “The Wait,” “On Going to See a Bereavement Counselor…,” and “November 23, 2009,” just to name a few. The last poem of the book, however, initially seemed unnecessary. “The reader already knows that,” I thought upon first reading the poem, titled “Learning How.” Then upon a second reading, it came to me that this poem contains words the poet needed to say and hear himself saying. What reader wouldn’t be happy to give him something that’s possible in a book of poems that’s not possible in life: the chance to come full circle. If the endearing voice of angst that told this love story so openly from beginning to end needs closure, it’s only natural that The Jane Poems end with a sense of resolve.
Moran has a knack for depicting the most-desperate days of an ordinary life, for showing just how remarkable one life is even in its most unremarkable moments. Reading The Jane Poems is like reading something written to you by your brother or uncle or cousin—the one person in the family who’s able to drop all pretenses and be honest about how he feels. One could do well to come to the end of life with someone like Ronald Moran in attendance—someone caring and solicitous to a dying person’s needs, someone willing to write poems about the death journey—not just the love and small joys; but the doubts, missteps, and insecurities as well.