Daniels, professor of English, will devote part of her fellowship to writing new poems based on archival research into the records of Eastern State Hospital. Established in Virginia in 1770 as The Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds, Eastern State Hospital, which remains in operation today, was the first public institution for the mentally ill in the United States.
“Part of my interest in capturing this subject matter is related to two of my classes: ‘The Art of Medical Writing’ and ‘Why Write: Perspectives on Literary Creativity,’” Daniels said. “Both of these investigate poetic language, literary creativity, and the psychology of creative writers.”
Daniels will also be considering through poetry the many connections between medicine/illness/health care and creative writing. She will focus in particular on bipolar disease, including its prevalence among poets, and she will be looking for new ways of understanding the role of bipolar disease in linguistic creativity and literary production.
Daniels, who directs Vanderbilt’s MFA Program in Creative Writing, is an affiliated faculty member in the Center for Medicine, Health and Society. She previously served as associate dean in the College of Arts and Science. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Virginia, as well as a master of fine arts degree from Columbia University. Recent poems of Daniels, who came to Vanderbilt in 1994, have been published in Best American Poetry 2010 and Best American Poetry 2008. Her books include A Walk in Victoria’s Secret (LSU 2010), Four Testimonies (LSU, 1998) and The Niobe Poems (Pittsburgh, 1989). She has received the Pushcart Prize, the James Dickey Prize and the Fellowship of Southern Writers’ Hanes Award for Poetry, among others.