By Abigail Mulonas
Mursalata Muhammad, an English professor at Grand Rapids Community College, has been selected by poet Thomas Lynch for a month-long residency at his home.
Muhammad is taking part as the first recipient of the Sweeney Memorial Boat House Residency at Lines End. Encouraging emerging writers with this new residency, the Lynch & Sons Fund for the Arts is on the south shore of Mullett Lake in Cheboygan County. This boathouse gets its name from the Irish poet, Matthew Sweeney, who wrote “On Mullett Lake,” in 2016 before he died.
“It comes with two resources I often lack: a place and time to write,” said Muhammad in a press release.
Lynch, a Michigan-born poet, essayist and funeral director has published numerous critically acclaimed volumes of poetry. Often a guest lecturer at many universities and colleges across the United States, he is also an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan.
While under the task of finding innovative ways to teach virtually amidst the pandemic, Muhammad’s students from her creative writing class raised questions about Lynch’s work, which led to him joining a Zoom meeting in December 2020. Lynch listened to students’ writing, gave feedback, and encouraged students on their creative writing journeys. To hear his insight on the subject, visit this link to view a recording of the class.
Although Muhammad has been a professor at GRCC for 20 years, she is still finding new ways to put her masters’ degree in English to good use – by beginning her first manuscript of poems. Given this opportunity to focus on her writing, she speaks on what’s the most accommodating.
Being chosen for such a legendary project, as she gets four weeks to write and stay in the boathouse, Muhammad says, “I am beyond grateful for this residency”. Furthermore, her dedication does not stop with just this as she is working on her doctorate at Antioch University’s Leadership and Change program.
However, this is not the first time the professor has been in the limelight. Once on the state Education Department’s K-12 Social Studies Standards Bias Review Committee, Muhammad was a member of the Michigan American Council on Education Women of Color Collaborative and even received the Leadership Skills Champion Award from the city of Grand Rapids.