In the short time since his graduation from the Colleges, Joshua Unikel ’07 has established himself as a successful and promising writer. After becoming an MFA candidate and Iowa Arts Fellow in the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program in the fall of 2009, Unikel has had seven creative works accepted for publication.
After publishing a fictional memoir, titled “Bandaged Moments,” in Essays & Fictions last fall, he’s been in print and online more recently for one of his lyric essays, titled “To Sophia -,” a prose poem, titled “525 South Winchester Boulevard,” and a personal essay, titled “Funhouse.”
“To Sophia -” appeared in the latest issue of The Normal School alongside established writers Jerald Walker, Marcia Aldrich, and Ryan Van Meter. In this lyric essay about an ambivalent romance, Unikel explains that, “To me, it’s also about bodies, both in the visceral way we come to know things through our bodies, and in the sense that texts can make their physicality and form evident at times.”
This tendency toward literary experimentation and poetic prose has entered Unikel’s writing in part because of his work as assistant editor of the Seneca Review, the Colleges’ national literary journal. “It’s where the lyric essay started and has grown as a subgenre,” Unikel says of the journal. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of the journal’s editorial team and to be a writer influenced by the work we publish.”
Unikel’s focus on innovative writing is clear in his other recent publication, “525 South Winchester Boulevard,” a prose poem about the idiosyncratic house built by Sarah Winchester, wife of the famous weapon innovator. The poem appeared recently in the online literary journal kill author, both as a text and as an audio recording.
Entering a bit more personal terrain, Unikel also recently published “Funhouse” in The Daily Palette, the University of Iowa’s Graduate Arts Journal. “The short essay is about an odd but well-known pinball machine that I played as a kid,” Unikel explains, “and the essay explores how that pinball machine connects to a trauma in my family.”
With several additional publications slated for the summer and fall, Unikel makes it clear that he’s just getting started. He will appear in the next issue of TriQuarterly Online for “Hextych I,” an intermedia essay that combines nonfiction writing and visual art. The essay will be the journal’s first-ever piece of “Text Art,” a new genre being added to TriQuarterly Online. In addition, Unikel will have one of his short lyric essays, titled “though color cannot,” appear in the upcoming issue of Parcel. He will also have a personal essay published in Drunken Boat’s upcoming Portraits Folio.
But despite these appearances in print and online, Unikel says, “Publications certainly help, but ultimately I care a lot more about my writing as a way of making meaning in different and hopefully new ways.”
Reflecting on his choice to pursue creative writing, Unikel admitted that, “Things have been fairly charmed for me – somehow I’ve been able to do what I love to do.”
As a student at the Colleges, Unikel graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English, concentrating in creative writing, with a double minor in philosophy and cognition, logic and language. He also received the Katherine D. Cooke Scholarship for honors-level literary scholarship, the Benjamin Atkinson Award in English and Comparative Literature, the Dean Benjamin P. Atkinson Prize for his contribution to the lives of his peers and was also the co-recipient of the Boswell Award for philosophic excellence.