The Lakeland Mirror

Feature Friday: Karl Elder

Mallory Pautz

Karl Elder reflects on his experiences as a young writer, offering words of wisdom to students with similar aspirations as Lakeland University’s Professor of Creative Writing, Poet-In-Residence, winner of Lakeland’s Outstanding Teacher Award and current publisher and editor for the literary magazine Seems 

Before he was old enough to even comprehend the alphabet, Elder was writing. “It was like I was preparing for something,” he recounted. His father, an avid reader himself, exposed Elder to many important novels in his teens, instilling a literary passion at a young age that flourished with the passage of time. Pouring over periodicals and picking up on certain phrases, Elder hastily records anything that catches his interest anywhere he can, coasting off the chemical rush of originality, “I’ve got chicken scratches all over the place,” he said. Such is the life of an artist of the English language.  

Within the dizzying world of social media and online publication with billions of competing ideas and venues to speak one’s mind, Elder urges students to make the most of resources available, such as the Esch Library on campus, to acquaint themselves with appealing, reputable periodicals they feel would best represent their work. “You have to find something that you admire and aspire in that way,” Elder elaborated. Though competition for publication tends to run high, Elder advises student writers to stay hopeful and endure, admitting it took 15 years of writing submissions to the Beloit Poetry Journal, a highly-regarded favorite of his, before his work was chosen for publication.  

The network of continued support from mentors, family and friends scored Elder his first national publication, an accomplishment he reflected on as the most validating. Nodding to the bookshelf to his left crammed with as much literature as physically possible, Elder described the immense honor and sense of elation felt after checking his mail one day and discovering that his poem, “Alpha Images” was personally recognized by David Lehman, editor of The Best American Poetry and The Oxford Book of American Poetry. Shortly thereafter, Marion Stocking, editor at the Beloit Poetry Journal, revealed that in the quarter of a century that the journal had been submitting work for the Pushcart Prize Anthology, Elder was the first to have won it for them. Within the short span of three months, Lakeland’s Poet in Residence’s poetry was bursting through previously uncharted territory. 

With 40 years of education experience and countless achievements on touting his talents as both an artist and educator, Elder continues to shine, passing his knowledge down through generations of Lakeland students.

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