Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: State College, Centre County
Awards: John Ruskin Prize, Rackham Dissertation Award, Rackham Fellowship, Donald R. Murphy Prize, Rising Star Award, Regents Fellowship
Heather Corbally Bryant was raised in a family that valued literacy and reading. Bryant, an English Professor and accomplished writer, attended Harvard University and the University of Michigan, earning her BA and PhD degrees. Her published works include her poetry collections, Cheap Grace (2011), Lottery Ticket (2013), and James Joyce’s Water Closet (2018). Bryant has taught English Composition and Creative Writing at Pennsylvania State University.
On October 12, 1959, Heather Corbally Bryant was born to Douglas Wallace Bryant and Rene Kuhn Bryant in Boston, Massachusetts. Bryant comes from a line of scholarly and literary thinkers. Her mother studied with Arthur Miller at the University of Michigan and wrote two novels, training young Bryant to be observant and "to make stories out of what [she] saw going on in the world around [her]." Additionally, Bryant's father was the Director and Librarian of Harvard Libraries, instilling in her an inclination to ask questions and be curious, as well as teaching her to revere books. As a child, Bryant had the opportunity to touch a copy of the Gutenberg Bible and dig the first shovel of dirt during the groundbreaking for Harvard's design library.
Bryant majored in History and Literature at Harvard University, graduating cum laude in 1981. Her honors thesis, "Sight and Sensibility: A Study of Ruskin, Turner, and Praeterita," won the John Ruskin Prize. She also worked on the university's literary magazine, The Harvard Advocate. The week of her graduation, Bryant wrote a poem called "The Garden Party" that was published by Christian Science Monitor and earned her a prize from the journal.
After graduation, Bryant taught English for a year at Phillips Academy Andover, a preparatory school. This was followed by an additional English teaching stint at Middlesex, where she also served as Associate Director of Admissions for two years. She then pursued her masters and doctorate degrees in Modern British and Irish Literature at the University of Michigan, earning many accolades during her time there. Bryant won an outstanding teacher award, in addition to earning a Rackham Dissertation Award and a Rackham Fellowship. The fellowships enabled her to conduct research for her dissertation in England, Ireland, and New York City. Bryant's dissertation and first academic book How Will the Heart Endure: Elizabeth Bowen and the Landscape of War (1992), won the Donald R. Murphy Prize for best first book at the American Conference on Irish Studies and was published by the University of Michigan Press in 1992. She also worked on the Cornell Yeats Series, specifically The Island of Statues.
Bryant moved from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Boston to teach writing at Harvard University, where she continued to be recognized for her outstanding teaching. She taught freshman English at the college from 1990 to 1993. Her twin children, Douglas and Phoebe, were born in 1994, and her son Walker was born in 1996. In 1995, Bryant returned from her leave and taught English to adults at Harvard's Extension School until 2005. While teaching at Harvard's Extension School, she also worked at Wellesley College as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Writing Program from 2003 to 2005. Bryant and her family then moved to State College, Pennsylvania, where she began teaching English Composition and Creative Writing at the Pennsylvania State University in 2006.
While teaching at Penn State, Bryant would continue to write and begin her published ventures into poetry. In 2011, Bryant published the novel Through Your Hands, which won the Rising Star and Editor's Choice awards. The novel centers on Joy and Gregg, a couple whose first child, Bean, is stillborn, and delves into how they struggle to heal after the tragedy. The poignantly written book explores the challenges of teen pregnancy and the miracles of adoption.
Bryant’s first poetry publication of many, a chapbook titled Cheap Grace, was also published in 2011. This was soon followed by her second poetry collection, Lottery Ticket (2013), as well as many articles and papers on varying topics. Caroline Collins of Verse Wisconsin says of Lottery Ticket: "These are poems to turn over in our minds, poems that begin in quiet splendor, gather weight and emotion, and build to a kaleidoscopic beauty." Bryant and her three children left Pennsylvania State University in August of 2014, and that same year she returned to Wellesley College as a guest lecturer.
During this guest lecturing period, Bryant wrote and published prolifically. Including her articles and papers, Bryant published over twenty works. Most notably, Bryant published her first and second longform poetry collections, My Wedding Dress (2016) and Thunderstorm (2017). She also published the chapbooks Compass Rose (2016) and Eve’s Lament (2018). In 2018, Bryant was hired as a full-time lecturer by Wellesley, where she continues to teach at the time of this writing.
Throughout her decades as an English professor, helping writers grow and find their own voices, Bryant has continued to pursue creative writing. On why she writes, Bryant reflects, "I think I write because I can't not write. I write because it's how I think, how I see the world, how I remember things, how I figure out what I think, what I want to leave behind." Bryant also reflects on how she enjoys writing in a variety of genres, since each serves a different purpose: "poems to help me sharpen my insight and sense of language play, novels to tell stories, and creative nonfiction to give a shape to the story that is my life continuing to develop over time."
As of this writing, Heather Corbally Bryant continues to live in Boston and teach at Wellesley College, spreading the joys of creative writing to as many people as possible.
Through Your Hands. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse Inc., 2011.
Cheap Grace. Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 2011.
Lottery Ticket. Madison, WI: Parallel Press Series of the University of Wisconsin, 2013.
Compass Rose. Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 2016.
My Wedding Dress. Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 2016.
Thunderstorm. Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 2017.
Eve’s Lament. Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 2018.
Practicing Yoga in a Former Shoe Factory. Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line Press, 2020.
How Will the Heart Endure: Elizabeth Bowen and the Landscape of War. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1992.
Bryant, Heather Corbally. Email correspondence. 3 July 2014.