The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

The Northerner

Meet English professor James O’Bannon

Hailey Roden

Less than a decade ago, you could find part-time faculty member James O’Bannon roaming the hallways in the Landrum Academic Center as a student, but now he’s teaching classes in a space he once roamed as an undergraduate student—home to NKU’s English program among many others.

James O’Bannon

Professor of: English

From: Cincinnati, Ohio

Time as a part-time faculty member at NKU: 3 years

Not more than a half a decade later, O’Bannon arrived at NKU as a part-time faculty member. 

After undergrad, O’Bannon received his MFA in poetry from California State University Fresno.

Outside NKU’s campus, O’Bannon is also a published poet, along with a professor at two other local universities—University of Cincinnati and Gateway Technical and Community College. 

The Northerner sat down with O’Bannon in a Q&A to discuss his teaching within the English department and journey as a writer.

Q: What made you want to start teaching?
A: “I really just love when students kind of grasp the concepts of writing an essay and kind of using their voice within their writing. I also love creative writing, so I wanted to kind of do something along those lines while I’m still writing, of course.”

Q: You mention you are also a writer yourself. What are some of the projects you’ve worked on outside of teaching?
A: “I am a poet of 10 years now. I’ve been writing since I was out of high school. I’ve published a few poems here and there, and I’m working on the full length collection. I love readings on just a great local, creative writing reading scene in Cincinnati. I love hearing the wonderful words of local poets, local fiction and nonfiction writers. And then just the Cincinnati metro area just has a great scene of local writers, so you know ‘I’m not at home, just writing by my lonesome.’ I’m usually at a reading of some sorts.”

Q: What are some of the courses that you teach at NKU?
A: “I mainly teach intro to creative writing. But recently, I’ve also taught intro to creative nonfiction and craft of creative writing.”

Q: What do you like about creative writing?
A: “Honestly, the expression, the way you can kind of bend and craft words to fully get across the point that you’re trying to make or even learn something new about yourself.”

Q: How would you describe your teaching style?
A: “I would describe it as genuine and caring. I try to be as open as possible with my students, because in the world we live in there’s so many things going on. I try to approach each lesson with care, to create a space where students are comfortable with being themselves.”

Q: You mentioned that you’ve been doing poetry for over 10 years. Is there anything that you’ve learned outside of the classroom as a poet that you hope to translate to students inside the classroom?
A: Honestly, approaching work and people with care. I think as a poet and as a writer in general, one of the things that I’ve learned is that you can’t be a good writer without trying and striving to become a better person. I kind of operate with that sort of world view that each day I’m kind of striving to better myself. I want students to be able to understand that you have to put the work in and try to better yourself every day if you really want to accomplish the things that you want to do.

Q: How do you balance everything both as a professor and poet?
A: “I try to use my evenings as my writing time after I’ve done all my grading. I don’t just teach at NKU, I also teach at UC and Cincinnati State. At times I am very busy, but in my free moments, I like to just collect my thoughts, compile my notes, and see if I can turn that into a poem or a longer-form piece.”