Category Archives: O’ Captain! My Captain!

Alum Tyler Gobble on Professor Todd McKinney, pt 2

Todd McKinney serves the Ball State English Department in a number of ways: as a teacher, an English Majors adviser, and as faculty adviser for the Writers Community. He works on his poems line by line and a nonfiction project regarding Family sentence by sentence. His work has appeared in The Cimarron Review, The Greensboro Review, Smartish Pace, Split Lip Magazine, Puerto del Sol, and other journals. Last year, he and his wife, Jackie (aka Dr. Grutsch McKinney, aka Director of the Writing Center), along with their two sons, moved to a small farm in the country where they garden, keep chickens, and attend to a small orchard of baby fruit trees. Their dog, Bert, is their family mascot.

Read part one of this O’ Captain! My Captain! post here

I met Tyler in the fall of 2007 when he walked into a Writers Community meeting. One of his pals (Andrew, I think) encouraged him to go.. I’m not really sure, but maybe he heard Matthew read some David Berman poems, and Emily read Screenshot 2015-09-16 at 8.58.39 AMsomething by Joan Didion, and Nate and Shaun read James Tate in unison, after which Rebecca probably shared a story by J.D. Salinger, and then Laura told a story that made Ashley or Layne laugh real and loud, and then Elysia introduced the next reader, and then Brittany read some poems she had been working on followed by Austin and one of his short stories. At some point in there, I read a Dean Young poem (maybe his poem, “Frottage,” the one that begins, “How goofy and horrible life is.”) and Tyler looked like a late-autumn bonfire.

Turns out Dean Young poems are the kindling of what has become our friendship. Turns out poetry is the bonfire. Continue reading

Alum Tyler Gobble on Professor Todd McKinney, pt 1

Tyler Gobble graduated from Ball State with a degree in English/Creative Writing in 2011. While there, he was a member of Writers’ Community, editor of The Broken Plate, and tutored in The Writing Center. He is currently a poetry fellow at Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas, and he returned to BSU last spring for the In Print Festival after publishing his first book, MORE WRECK MORE WRECK. You can learn more about him at He’s standing on his desk to honor Professor Todd McKinney. 

I’m in-between desks right now and my knees seem to be melting alongside the polar ice caps, so I’ll be doing this hollering sideways on this bed. I’m so stoked to chatter a sec about a transformative educational experience I’ve had with my former professor / my poetry mentor / my now good pal Todd McKinney (I never know which distinction to use on resumes and introductions! Let’s use them all here!).

But which oh which educational experience to delve into here? The four years of camaraderie and poetic tutelage through The Writers’ Community? The eye-thumping crash course in creative nonfiction? The generous and solidifying independent study?

Yes and yes and yes. Continue reading

Alum Matt Gonzales on Dr. Lauren Onkey

A New Series

We’re starting a new series here at #bsuenglish: O Captain! My Captain!

Maybe you recognize it as the title of this Walt Whitman poem?

Maybe you recognize the phrase from the pivotal scene of Dead Poet’s Society?

In this series, we want alumni to talk about a transformative educational experience they had with our faculty (past or present), similar to what New York Times columnist Frank Bruni does here. 

Why are we doing this?

Because the humanities are not “impractical,” and we need to start telling stories like this as loudly and as effectively as we can.

We need you to start standing up on desks. 

We hope every single alum of our department had a transformative experience in Robert Bell. If so, please write to us and describe it. We’ll publish your answer on the blog, including a comment from the faculty member.

If that faculty member has retired or moved on, we’ll provide an update on “where are they now?” If they have passed away, we’ll tell you all about them. It’s important to share the history of the department.

  • Our first “Captain” is Dr. Lauren Onkey, who taught at Ball State from 1994 to 2008.
  • Our first “desk-stander” is Matt Gonzales.

Continue reading