Hamline News

MFAC Faculty Member Ron Koertge Retires from Teaching


Hamline’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults (MFAC) is beginning its first summer semester without the program’s illustrious, humorous poet on faculty. After nearly a decade of teaching for Hamline MFAC, Ron Koertge is retiring to spend more time writing and with his wife. Ron is currently the Poet Laureate of Pasadena, CA and is regularly publishing poetry collections and poems. His poem “Negative Space” was turned into an Oscar-nominated short in 2018. His most recent collections are YELLOW MOVING VAN (Pittsburgh Press) and OYLMPUSVILLE (Red Hen Press).

Koertge is the two-time winner of the PEN Literary Award for Children’s literature, and his books young people have been formative and were early heralds of the boom of verse novels entering the publishing world in the recent years. As the author of over twenty books for children and young adults, his books are known for being funny with heart and as he puts it, “almost always irreverent.”

Ron’s witty, genuine, and on-point mentorship guided many students to poetry, many finding their calling within it due to his ask for experimentation. MFAC alum and poet, Tasslyn Magnusson shares, “I didn’t have a clue when he said, “Let’s try some poetry. I mean, you might as well, right?” what would happen. Never could I have imagined I’d find myself four years later with a chapbook and a bunch of poems published or that I regularly call myself a poet.”

MFAC alumni Aimee Lucido shares, “I don’t think I would have discovered poetry if I hadn’t worked with Ron, and I certainly wouldn’t have attempted a novel in verse.” Lucido’s debut verse middle grade verse novel EMMY IN THE KEY OF CODE came out last year. 

Ron has been a friend, mentor, and colleague to many. “This is going to sound sarcastic, but it’s not,” Gene Luen Yang, fellow MFAC faculty member and award-winning author shares, “Ron’s words will always live in my heart. He proved to me that poets are cool. I mean, I had an inkling they were cool before, but I wasn’t convinced until I met Ron. He’s one of the most talented teachers I’ve ever met. When he lectures, every person in the classroom hangs on his every word. His love of language is infectious.” 

MFAC staff, faculty, students, and alums will be sincerely missing Ron Koertge as he held a place of a truly loved teacher and an invaluable colleague. His legacy and impact will continue on in all he affected in the name of poetry and good and true writing. 

“He said - make art. You're the boss. Use your words. Make art,” Magnusson shares. “And so I have. And will continue to do so.”

And so will we.