Professor of English
First year at St. Kate’s: 1989
Courses taught: American Writers I, spanning the years from Columbus to Walt Whitman (1492–1892); also courses on creative writing, poetry, Native American writers, nature writers and “The Human Experience of Literature”
Published work: The Smallest Bird in North America, a collection of original poems; essays and poems in more than 30 literary journals and magazines
Literary heroes: “I like the work of Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Hass, Dorianne Laux, Larry Levis, Henri Cole, Pablo Neruda, Antonio Machado and Cesar Vallejo, Keats and John Clair, an 18th-Century nature poet, as well as classic American poets like Whitman and Dickinson. In fiction, I like Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy.”
The art of storytelling: Before becoming a professor, Grunst was a commercial fisherman on the Great Lakes, which partly piqued his interest in nature poetry. “That experience helps me illustrate language and facilitates storytelling. I teach a lot through metaphor. I like to make points by telling stories.”
Teaching style: “I don’t like to lecture. I’d rather have a discussion, because you don’t know what you’re going to say. I love when students have read a text well and we can have a wide-open, ricochet exchange. That’s the fun part.”
Favorite subject to teach: “I get a lot of pleasure out of introducing American literature to students, especially teaching Native American creation stories and stories of immigration. I also like teaching the intermediate poetry composition course.”
Keeping in touch: “I love when students who have graduated will call and say they’ve gotten something published or come back and talk about what they’re doing. It’s fun to reconnect with them.”
Outside the classroom: Fishing, hiking and going on backpacking trips with his 27-year-old twin daughters. In 2007, they went to Peru and hiked in the Andes Mountains and have also backpacked in Mexico, the Rocky Mountains and Canada.
Education: B.A., Western Michigan University; M.F.A., M.A.W., Ph.D., University of Iowa.