“Heart, Optimism and Cheer” in Galloway’s poyms for people – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

“Heart, Optimism and Cheer” in Galloway’s poyms for people

In his first book of poetry, Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Russian Area Studies David Galloway depicts “the moments that make life a work of art.”

poyms for people, the debut collection of poetry by Associate Dean for Curricular Initiatives and Development David Galloway, was published in December by Kelsay Books.

The book “is filled with a poetry of great heart, optimism, and cheer…Galloway’s accessible, precisely rendered narratives about his Virginia ancestors, Maryland boyhood, fatherhood, and experiences in Russia are not, however, cheery but rather wry and unswerving encounters that recognize what’s lost or ‘broken forever’ in our lives as well as what we learn to be thankful for,” writes Michael Collier, renowned poet and director emeritus of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

Learn more about poyms for people.

For Galloway, the book is a return to the experience of his undergraduate poetry writing. “In graduate school, I thought I was done with creative writing,” he says, “but as time went on, I kept being drawn back to it.”

After receiving tenure, Galloway turned more and more to writing, publishing numerous poems and essays. Many of these works are based on his experiences in Russia, trips that in large part were coordinated through HWS programs in Global Education. “One of the keystones of the Russian Area Studies program is in-country study,” Galloway says. “There’s nothing that compares with it. So we try to provide every opportunity for students to get to Russia, and those trips were fundamental in forming experiences that I use in my writing.”

One such poem, “Baikal Perspective,” is based on the department’s 2006 Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. “Professors Judith McKinney, Kristen Welsh, and I took a group of HWS students to Lake Baikal in Siberia,” Galloway says, “and it was utterly transformative. None of us had been there before, though we’d always wanted to go.“ Baikal is the deepest freshwater lake in the world and a major tourist destination in the region. As Galloway says, “If you’re going to go halfway around the world to Baikal, you’ve got to take a swim…”

Baikal Perspective

i have swum the deepest, oldest lake in the world,

but swum makes it sound as if i cavorted with

the chubby, adorable nerpa, baikal’s freshwater seal,

when in fact I dipped my fragile self in the frigid waters

and fled

 

we took a cadre of eager students halfway across

the world, to olkhon island in the middle of baikal,

where in june the icy tips of the distant primorskii range

still sit snow-capped, glinting across the small sea,

its water a striking forty-two degrees fahrenheit

 

they trundled a blue truck with a wood-fired

mini-sauna on back to the rippling edge,

parked it on the sand so after each dip

we could retreat to a sanctuary of

smoldering beech and pine

 

we ran, stepping into liquid nitrogen,

burying our heads beneath one-fifth of the world’s

fresh water that pooled here only twenty-five

million years ago, emerged frozen and staggered

to the truck until warmth returned

 

we march to the dining hall, the serving lady

asks if we swam, yes we say yes, proud at

braving this extremity of nature, but she slings

our hot lunch plates to the table with a pitying glance

as she returns to the kitchen, saying

I swim it every day

In illustrating the details of “a life well lived,” poet Katherine Hoerth writes, Galloway’s book explores “the magic and spark, the moments that make life a work of art.”

A tenured member and Associate Professor of the Russian Area Studies Department, Galloway joined the HWS faculty in 1999. He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Slavic studies from Cornell University and a B.A. in both Russian and English from University of Maryland, College Park.