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Retiring Professor/Poet from England
Considers Portales His Home
photo and story by Jennifer Conlee
"At all levels on the campus, there are a large number of very talented people, very pleasant individuals whom I am delighted to call my friends.”
– Dr. Antony Oldknow
Born in Peterborough, then a small but very old English town and now about the size of Lubbock, Dr. Antony Oldknow, who is retiring, travelled an interesting route before ending up in Portales, which he now considers home.
|Dr. Antony Oldknow|
Dr. Oldknow began his career as a linguist and specialist in renaissance and medieval literature at England’s Leeds University, where he received degrees in English and Education. He then moved to Scotland’s Edinburgh University, where in 1964, he earned a postgraduate degree in phonetics and linguistics, then thought by many to be equivalent of an American doctorate.
After graduation, he accepted a position at Québec, Canada’s Université Laval, where he needed French to teach his classes. He became fluent in the language. The Québec cultural revolution of the 1960’s caused the university in newly achieved democratic fashion to abruptly relieve itself of many of its foreign non-tenured faculty, of which Oldknow was one.
This resulting exile brought the formerly Monsieur Oldknow to the United States, where he taught for 18 years in the north central states—North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin—developed into a well-published poet, literary translator, editor, and publisher, and was for one year, 1980, traveling writer with the Plains Literary Book Bus, taking contemporary literature and its writers in person to campus and community centers in seven upper-mid-west states—Dr. Oldknow being one of the featured writers.
“We gave recitals, interviews with newspapers, radio, and television, and sold books, including my own,” Dr. Oldknow said. Plains Distribution of Fargo, the Book Bus owner, went out of business in early 1981, due to President Reagan’s announced plan to cut funding for the arts, according to Dr. Oldknow, and he returned to teaching. In May 1983, he graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota, his dissertation embodying skills in Linguistics, Literary Theory, Translation, and Creative Writing, its focal subject being the first and most accomplished collection of the poetry of French rustic symbolist poet Francis Jammes (1868-1938), a poet of place, the place being the Pyrénées, which Oldknow has subsequently visited often, and very much loves.
“I had frequently been told that in order to achieve any kind of job security I would need to get an American Ph.D.,” Dr. Oldknow said, “So I finally bowed to the inevitable, found in the event that I very much enjoyed myself, and have no regrets. Also told I would need to become an American citizen, during Clinton’s first term, I was sworn in as one at Albuquerque’s Elks Club."
Between 1984 and 1987, he taught at the University of Kansas, then found his way to Eastern New Mexico University, where he has been now for twenty-five years.
“They hired me mainly to teach linguistics and medieval literature,” Dr. Oldknow said. “I became a tenured full professor, and spent eight years as the chair of Languages and Literature, from 1991 to 1999.”
Dr. Oldknow said he liked the way the university has let him work with students on real living ideas that have in many cases been turned into valuable research projects. “I like teaching,” he said. “I like the students. Some of them are really very bright, and it is a joy to work with them. Indeed at all levels on the campus, there are a large number of very talented people, very pleasant individuals whom I am delighted to call my friends.”
Now that he is about to retire, Dr. Oldknow is preparing to concentrate on his other passions. A well-published poet, fiction-writer, and literary translator, he runs a small literary press from his home where he publishes books and magazines. He also plans to concentrate on his painting, which he recently began again after stopping in 1984, the year of the death of his father, who was also a painter.
|Dr. Oldknow's latest book of poems|
“My quarter century at Eastern has proved very fruitful for me, both personally and professionally. The unique environment has stimulated me to learn all sorts of new skills. As a result, I have managed to greatly improve my research and publishing skills, become a well-published fiction writer, especially with regard to ghost stories, and start writing magic-realism novels. My small press, Scopcræft (which means “literature” in Old English), begun in 1966 in North Dakota, has now published over 250 titles, many of them works authored by Eastern faculty and students. I fell in love with the Re:Learning approach to education, which Eastern adopted in 1987, and am still proud to use its methods.
"So far as pride is concerned, I am particularly proud to have thought of having the Liberal Arts Building renamed for Jack Williamson, the great science-fiction pioneer, who has done so much to grace Eastern’s traditions and mission and provide them financial support. I organized a petition drive for my project, gained a torrent of signatures for it, and was delighted to see the Regents endorse it, so Jack himself could be present at the official naming ceremony, then go on to have the pleasure for almost a decade of teaching in the building named for him.”
|by Dr. Anthony Oldknow|
Though he’d like to visit Australia, hopes some time to set foot on all seven continents, and dreams of owning a house in Lisbon, Portugal, Portales is his home. Though he said he was a bit shocked at the climate his first time here, missing the rivers that he found at all the other towns he’d lived in.
“South Main Avenue, on which I live, and Eighteenth Street, both of which look like rivers on the unusual occasions when they receive heavy rain, don’t really count,” he says. “Nevertheless, the town has improved dramatically, since I came here.” Dr. Oldknow owns his Portales house, where he tries to plant two trees every year and keep his garden as much like an English garden as possible. He paid-up his mortgage last May, and plans to improve the property in the coming years.
“Portales is the town I’ve lived in the longest, twenty-five years,” Dr. Oldknow said, “so I think of myself as a Portales resident, though people I meet usually find that hard to believe.”
|Friday's Jack Williamson Lectureship
(photos by Wendel Sloan and Betty Williamson)
The 36th annual Williamson Lectureship welcomed guests of honor Daniel Abraham and Carrie Vaughn to campus, with Connie Willis again serving as the mistress of ceremonies. From left to right, Ty Franck, Daniel Abraham, Carrie Vaughn, Melinda Snodgrass, Connie Willis, Steven Gould, Joan Saberhagen, Stephen Haffner. Kneeling, Serge Mailloux. Not pictured: Darynda Jones and Ian Tregillis.
|Saturday's High Plains Film Festival
(photos and video by Wendel Sloan)
Watch a few minutes of the "I.Zombi" documentary shown Saturday at the High Plains Film Festival in Buchanan Hall. The Festival's director is Laurel Petty. – [video]
(video by Wendel Sloan)
|ENMU Broadcast Students Featured on KVII-TV
(after guests from KVII visit Janet Bresenham's Class)
|Watch the report from Amarillo's KVII-TV [here].|
|A Peek Inside Guadalupe Hall
(photos by Minh Tran)