I am a poet and a writer. I was born and raised in northern California, where I received my BA (Sonoma State University), MA (Sonoma State University), and PhD (UC Davis) in English literature with concentrations in biblical, classical, and medieval and early modern literature. I also hold a Certificate in Midwifery from Mercy in Action. I have served as a professor at Wheaton College and Colorado Christian University, teaching literature and creative writing, and as a midwife in the U.S., Uganda, and the Philippines. After serving internationally, I returned to join the faculty of the University of California, Davis, teaching in the University Writing Program and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. I am now a professor of English literature at the University of La Verne in southern California.
My books of poetry include Rising: Poems for America (Wipf & Stock, 2015) and Sanctuary (Finishing Line Press, 2008), and several more published with Lulu Press: Made in the Image, Magical Poems, Tidepools, Love-Song, Butterflies, A Pure Heart, Sunflower Songs, The Roots of Apples, and my Birdwatcher Trilogy: Birdwatcher’s Diary Entries, Wild Birdsong, and Jazz Birding. With Issuu, I’ve published a second trilogy of poetry ebooks about birding and the spiritual life, Spiritual Aviary for the Year, Vol. I, II & III. I recently published Uncaged. Out of my work as a midwife comes my Birth Song Trilogy: Epiphany: Birth Poems, Transfiguration: A Midwife’s Birth Poems, and Annunciation: A Mother’s Birth Poems (in progress). My poems appear widely in print, online, and in anthologies such as Contemporary Poetry, New Crops from Old Fields: Eight Medievalist Poets, Verse/Chorus: A Call and Response Anthology, and The Live Poets of Alexandria Anthology as well as in the devotional Closer to God.
My fiction tends toward magical realism with a twist. My stories appear in Crux Literary Journal, Dappled Things, Literature Today, Pacific Review, Voices Project, and Main Street Rag’s anthology, Law and Disorder: Stories of Conflict and Crime, as well as my own short story collection, Eight Stories from Undiscovered Countries. I am now writing a collection of short stories called Hourglass. Focusing on the lives of Californians at the turn the 21st century, each story connects, directly or indirectly, to San Quentin State Prison and seeks to explore our human need for freedom, justice, and redemption.
My creative non-fiction includes several biographical essays about women writers, American writers, and midwives in history. I’ve written about the early women writers Christina Markyate, Marie de France, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Queen Elizabeth I, and Aemilia Lanyer as well as about American writers Jonathan Edwards, the New England preacher of the Great Awakening, and Ruth Stone, a modern American poet. Some of my other essays, published in Midwifery Today, celebrate Louise Bourgeois Boursier, royal midwife of Renaissance France; Bridget Lee Fuller, pilgrim-midwife of Colonial America; Jane Sharp, midwife-educator of early modern England, and, later in time, Stanislawa Lecsynska, a midwife imprisoned at Auschwitz during WWII, and Lanyero Karamela, a midwife working in Uganda today. I am now editing selected essays for a book called The Lives of Midwives from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment.
My contributions to literary criticism include two academic monographs, The Signifying Power of Pearl (Routledge, 2017) and John Trevisa and the English Polychronicon (ACMRS/Brepols, 2012); two edited academic essay collections, Illuminating Moses: A History of Reception from Exodus to the Renaissance (Brill, 2014) and Illuminating Jesus in the Middle Ages (Brill, in progress); and two co-edited academic essay collections, Translating the Past: Essays on Medieval Literature (ACMRS, 2012) and Approaches to Teaching the Middle English Pearl (MLA, 2017). My academic essays, articles, and chapters appear in many peer-reviewed journals and books; my essays on collegiate pedagogy appear in This Rough Magic, The Once and Future Classroom, and SMART: Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching. I have a special interest in the reception of medieval literature in the mythology of J.R.R. Tolkien, which is reflected in my essays, “Orphic Powers in the Legend of Beren and Lúthien,” “Why is Bilbo Baggins Invisible? The Hidden War in The Hobbit,” and “J.R.R. Tolkien, Eucatastrophe, and the Re-Creation of Medieval Legend,” all of which are published in The Journal of Tolkien Research.
I also enjoy making music and art. I’m a third-generation gospel singer and songwriter, a flutist and percussionist, and the creator of three recording projects that combine music and poetry: Songs from the Secret Life, Love-Song, and with my brother, saxophonist and composer Andrew Beal, The Jazz Bird. As a multimedia visual artist, I work with collage, photography, watercolor, acrylics, and fingerpaints, and I like to mix media. I’ve produced two collections of collage artwork, Sacred Art and Fairy-Tale, and two collections of paintings, Light and Lily. My book, Tidepools, combines haiku forms with my original photography.
I’ve lived in small college towns near big cities for most of my working life: Wheaton in Chicagoland (Illinois); Lakewood in the Denver metropolitan area (Colorado); and Davis in the greater San Francisco Bay Area (California). Now I am making my home in La Verne near Los Angeles, the City of the Angels. I value the many relationships that I have to other people here, nearby, and around the world. I love being with my friends, families, and seven godchildren … traveling world-wide … reading, writing, making music, making art, listening, learning new languages, walking in nature with my beloved miniature dachshund Joyful, bird-watching, swimming, cycling, dancing, singing, and playing the flute – everywhere I go! I am so thankful to God for a beautiful life. As Niggle exclaims in a story by J.R.R. Tolkien: It’s a gift!
Old tree, sleepy tree
sleepy in the older ground —
branches up, roots down!