Professor Mitchell Confronts Both Triumph and Loss in His Newest Book of Poetry

Posted Date: 
Monday, October 21, 2013 - 2:45pm

When he isn’t encouraging students at Alfred State to express themselves through writing, Richard Mitchell, professor of English, is contemplating his own creative endeavors—namely, poetry. His latest book, Before Every Other Fall (Aldrich Press), hit the stands this July and is already receiving acclaim. “Mitchell's poetry is distinctive—it triggers emotion in the reader without the use of sentimentality, intellectual thought without the use of lecture, and above all, an appreciation of sensory opportunities that the reader instinctively feels she would have missed without Mitchell's poetry to serve as a prompt,” says Dr. Daniel Barwick, president of Independence Community College in Independence, Kansas. “Some of the poems are tragic and some are lighter fare, but all prompt a feeling of immediacy, intimacy, and sensory richness.”

The book is a collection of poems—each with its own voice and emotional quality—all sharing the same sense of poignancy. “What happens to us when things are lost?” Mitchell asks. “The impetus came from me asking myself that question—how do people deal with different kinds of loss?”

Although the poems are intimately connected, each piece is written using a different persona. And while some of these voices stem from the writer’s own experiences, many, Mitchell says, are simply tools he uses to peel away the layers of subjective experience in order to get at the heart of what it is, for anyone, to feel significant loss. “As a poet, he asks us to use all of our senses, and he challenges us by creating complex metaphors about human nature and the natural world,” says Calista McBride, interim chair of English and Humanities and professor of English at Alfred State. “As readers, we are compelled to move with him…from the vulnerability of innocence to the strength of graceful experience.”

Mitchell grew up in Johnson City, New York, and developed a love of poetry from an early age through his mother’s encouragement. He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from SUNY Oswego and his Ph.D. from the University of Nevada, Reno, concentrating in Renaissance drama and non-dramatic literature, American literature, and the eighteenth-century novel. Prior to taking a position at Alfred State, Mitchell taught at SUNY Delhi and at North Country Community College.

Mitchell’s work has appeared in the Louisville Review, Skylark, the Cimarron Review, the Concho River Review, and the Wisconsin Review among others. His first book, Speaking of Seed and Night, was published by Chiron Press. Before Every Other Fall is available for purchase from