Brian Blanchfield grew up in North Carolina and graduated from UNC with a double major in English and Asian Studies in 1995. Today he is a professor of creative writing and literature at the University of Idaho. His personal website does a great job of summing up his productive career as a writer:
Brian Blanchfield is the author of three books of poetry and prose, most recently Proxies, published by Nightboat Books in 2016, and by Picador UK in 2017. A collection of essays—part cultural close reading, part dicey autobiography—Proxieswas awarded a 2016 Whiting Award in Nonfiction, was named a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Gay Memoir and the PEN USA Literary Award in Nonfiction, and has been widely reviewed.
His first two books are collections of poetry: Not Even Then (University of California Press, 2004) and A Several World, (Nightboat Books, 2014), which received the 2014 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets and was longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award for Poetry.
His poetry and prose have appeared in Harper’s, The Nation, Chicago Review, BOMB, The Brooklyn Rail, Lana Turner, The Paris Review, Brick, Conjunctions, Tin House, StoryQuarterly, and The Oxford American, among other journals and magazines. Two long sequences—one poetry, one prose—are available as chapbooks: The History of Ideas, 1973-2012 (Spork Press, 2013) and Correction. (Essay Press, 2016). He is the recipient of a 2015-16 Howard Foundation Fellowship.
Brian mentioned to me by email that he had particularly fond memories of studying Taoism and Chinese literature with Professor Sandy Seaton. He also noted that “living in Beijing for several months at age 20” was a formative experience. Although he doesn’t publish or teach in the field of Asian Studies, his remarkable career is a wonderful example of the ways in which studying Asian and Middle Eastern languages and literatures doesn’t narrow your options in life, but rather opens doors to new experience and forms of creativity.