"I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, where it was hoped I would be a Baptist preacher and a football hero. Instead, I tried to be a folk singer. I started writing poems when I realized my lyrics were far better, and more interesting, than my music."
A 1970 graduate of Georgia State University, Greenway's first "job" out of school was for the U.S. Navy -- he was drafted as an electronics technician in New Orleans. While there, he began graduate studies in modern literature and poetry at Tulane University; he also met his future wife, Betty (now a children's literature professor). By the time Greenway received his Ph.D. in 1984, he had already won an Academy of American Poets Prize.
After a three-year teaching stint at the University of Southern Mississippi, Greenway was asked to teach English at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1986. He has remained at the school since then, and, while there, has "been awarded distinguished professorships in both teaching and scholarship."
Greenway believes (and has proven) poetry to be his "vocation"; he also believes children are some of the most gifted poets of all, but that society "educate(s) the poetry right out of them by telling them that there are right and wrong ways to say things."
Having published seven poetry collections -- most recently Ascending Order, in 2003 -- and hundreds of poems in the country's most notable trade magazines (including Poetry and American Poetry Review), Greenway has also won five awards and was named Georgia Author of the Year in 1994.
Greenway draws his inspiration from the greats of his genre: Robert Frost, William Stafford, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and William Carlos Williams, saying: "All these writers urge me to do all I can to spread the word that poetry is not a hobby, but a way of living more fully…poetry is a way to make and keep ourselves whole, as individuals, as communities, as a world."
Greenway's poem, "Anniversary," has been accepted for inclusion in The Poetry Anthology: 1912-2002, appearing alongside the poetry of Frost, T.S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath, and others.
Greenway and his wife frequently summer in Britain (Greenway himself is a descendant of a Welsh Methodist Minister). And, though he pursued the path of poet rather than folk singer, he still writes songs and performs in a folk group called Brady's Leap. He says he loves teaching and interacting with students. "The only exception are those lacking in ambition. In fact, ambitionless slackers… make it hard for (me) to control (my) volatile temper…. To rip off their arms and beat them over the head screaming loser, loser, loser."
Having made that comment, Greenway assures all that he "is a gentle caring, creative man of quiet character and strength."
Photos courtesy of William Greenway.