Paul Lake (1951–)

Paul Lake is a poet, novelist, and professor residing in Russellville (Pope County). He received the Porter Prize, one of the most prestigious literary awards offered in Arkansas, in recognition of his poetry.

Paul Lake was born on August 1, 1951, in Baltimore, Maryland. His mother, Barbara Hull Lake, was a fifth-grade teacher, and his father, Paul Saunders Lake, was a manager and salesman for Metropolitan Life. He had three siblings: James, Stephen, and Melody.

Lake lived in a row house on Giddings Avenue as a child in Baltimore. When he was in the second grade, Lake and his family moved to rural Harford County, where he attended elementary school and junior high school. After graduating from Edgewood High School, Lake spent two years at Harford Community College. Lake spent two years as a pipeline construction inspector for Harford County while also taking night classes. He married Tina Inez Selanders in 1971. Lake graduated magna cum laude with a degree in English education from Towson University in 1975.

Lake taught at Calverton Junior High School in Baltimore for two years before applying to Stanford University for graduate school. During his time at Stanford, Lake was awarded a Stegner Fellowship in Poetry. He graduated from Stanford in 1979, having earned a master’s degree in English and creative writing. Lake spent two years as an adjunct English instructor at the University of Santa Clara (now Santa Clara University) in California. Lake wrote and published poems and essays throughout his academic career, and in 1981, he became an English professor at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.

Lake has published numerous poems and essays in a wide range of literary and cultural journals and anthologies. He has published three books of poetry—Another Kind of Travel (1988), Walking Backward (1999), and The Republic of Virtue (2013), as well as two poetry chapbooks. Lake published two novels: Among the Immortals (1994), a satirical literary thriller about poets and vampires, and Cry Wolf: A Political Fable (2008), a political satire that Booklist compared to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, describing it as “more polished than Orwell’s anti-Communist satire.” Lake recalled that the novel was “difficult to publish because of its assault on political correctness, among other controversial subjects in the book. My agent had a hard time finding a publisher. As is often the case when a satire offends the political left, mainstream journals and reviews simply ignored my book.”

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Lake was active in a literary movement now called the New Formalism and wrote several articles and essays promoting the importance of formal verse—poetry structured by meter, rhyme, and form. His essay “The Shape of Poetry” was published and reprinted by several journals and books. Two related essays shortly followed: “Orderly Disorder: Free Verse, Chaos, and the Tradition” and “The Enchanted Loom,” both of which described the problematic nature of postmodern literature and theory and argued that formal verse was related to the forms of nature.

In 1988, Lake won the Porter Prize for Literary Excellence, an annual award given to one writer in or from Arkansas each year. He won Arkansas Tech’s annual faculty award for scholarship and creativity in 2000 and, in 2006, was hired to serve as the poetry editor for the Manhattan-based journal First Things. Lake’s The Republic of Virtue won the Richard Wilbur Award of 2013.

For additional information:
Barrick, Boyd. “Lake Wins Richard Wilbur Award.” Arka Tech, February 6, 2014. Online at (accessed September 7, 2021).

Lewis, Bill. “Book Notes.” Arkansas Gazette, February 14, 1988, p. 1C.

Haley Sohl
Saline County, Arkansas


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